Family Law: Contribution to Child's College Education

Lovold v. Ellis (Ind. Ct. App. April 26, 2013)

In this decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed several issues, including the often-litigated and disputed obligation of a non-custodial parent to contribute to the cost of a child’s college education.

The trial court in this case denied the custodial mother’s request for contribution from the non-custodial father on the grounds that the child had repudiated the relationship with his father. The Court of Appeals has previously held that repudiation is a complete defense to a request for contribution to college expenses. See McKay v. McKay 644 N.E.2d 164, 166 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994). Repudiation occurs when a child completely refuses to have a relationship with a parent. The Court explained the McKay rule succinctly and persuasively.

Thus, because the father in McKay had “stood with open arms” to reestablish a relationship with his son, and all his son wanted was “a court order requiring Father to stand with [an] outstretched, open wallet,” the court relieved the father of the responsibility of contributing to his son’s college education.

The Court in this case affirmed the trial court’s finding that the child had repudiated the relationship with his father, describing the mother’s arguments to the contrary as essentially requests to reweigh the evidence presented to the trial court and to reassess the credibility of witnesses, which appellate courts do not do. The Court cited several cases in which the Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s decision regarding repudiation and a single case in which the Court of Appeals reversed based on insufficient evidence, Redd v. Redd, 901 N.E.2d 545 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009). As the bar for overturning a trial court’s finding regarding repudiation is clearly high, any appellate counsel defending or challenging such an order would do well to examine the Redd case closely.

The Court then addressed the father’s challenge to the trial court's child support order. This challenge involved an issue of first impression in Indiana: whether a child support order should be reduced for the time a child is living on campus if the court has found the child has repudiated the non-custodial parent. The Court held that a non-custodial parent should not be required to contribute to a child’s living expenses on campus if the child has repudiated the parent. As the Court explained, “To hold otherwise would render repudiation no longer a complete defense to the payment of college expenses.” This holding resolves (for the time being at least) an open question and provides guidance for trial courts and family law practitioners regarding the effect of a finding of repudiation.

Barrett McNagny LLP

Legal Disclaimer

The information contained in the Barrett McNagny LLP website is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice on any subject matter. Furthermore, the information contained on our website may not reflect the most current legal developments. You should not act upon this information without consulting legal counsel.

Your transmission and receipt of information on the Barrett McNagny LLP website, or sending an e-mail to one of our attorneys or staff, will not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Barrett McNagny LLP. If you need legal advice and want to establish an attorney-client relationship with Barrett McNagny LLP, please contact one of our attorneys by telephone, email, or other means of communication, and allow the attorney to confirm that the firm does not represent other persons or entities involved in the matter and that the firm is willing to accept representation. Until such confirmation is provided by one of our attorneys, you should not transmit information to us that you consider confidential. If you do provide information to us, and no attorney-client relationship is established, the information will not be considered confidential or privileged, and our receipt of such information will not preclude us from representing another client in a matter adverse to you.

Any links to other websites are not intended to be referrals or endorsements of those sites.

Privacy Policy

Terms of Use

ADA Compliance

Transparency Cover Rule: Machine-Readable Files

Contact Us
My name is
and I am a(n)
seeking legal counsel in the area of 
me at
as soon as you can.

Thank you for contacting us!

A representative will be in touch with you shortly.

An attorney-client relationship will NOT be formed merely by sending an email to Barrett McNagny, LLP or to any of its attorneys. Please do not send any information specific to your legal needs until you obtain approval from a Barrett McNagny, LLP attorney, as the content of such email will not be considered confidential or privileged. By sending us an email, you confirm your understanding of this notification. If you agree, you may use the e-mail links on this page to contact an attorney.