On July 1, 2012, the legislature amended Indiana Code § 31-16-6-6 by changing the presumptive age for termination of child support from twenty-one to nineteen. In this case, the Court of Appeals addressed the effect of the amended statute on child support orders entered before the amendment.
Here, before section 31-16-6-6 was amended, the trial court entered an order requiring a father to pay child support until his son's twenty-first birthday. The Court of Appeals held that the statute controlled over the trial court’s prior order. Therefore, the father's support obligations terminated upon his son’s nineteenth birthday.
This decision answers an important question for family law practitioners and should provide clarity to courts faced with petitions to modify support obligations based on the amended statute.
The Court was careful to recognize that parties may still enter into agreements to provide child support past a child’s nineteenth birthday. The Court also clarified that its decision applied only to child support obligations and had no effect on a parent’s obligation to provide educational support.
Finally, it is worth noting that the mother (the appellee) in this case did not file an appellate brief. However, as the Supreme Court has recognized, an appellee who did not file a brief before the Court of Appeals may still seek transfer. See N. Indiana Pub. Serv. Co. v. Minniefield, 823 N.E.2d 273 (Ind. 2005). Therefore, the Supreme Court may still review this decision if the mother chooses to seek transfer.
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