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November 18, 2005
Case Law Development: Allocating Responsibility for College Expenses
In a case involving the dissolution of a 13-year marriage between a physician and a stay-at-home mom, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed an order requiring Father to pay all of the college expenses for the couple's three children's (ages 13, 10 and 9) once their college investment funds were exhausted. Distinguishing cases in which the court had reversed orders for one parent to pay all college tuition as situations in which the parents had roughly equal resources, the court found this award was justified by the significant disparity in income between the parents. (Father earned an average of $330,000 annually; the court had imputed an income of $20,800 to Mother).
A dissent took issue with the order to pay "an unfettered amount of the children's college expenses" noting "putting three children through four years of education at Harvard would cost Husband $ 561,000" and that "it is entirely possible that he ... could be plunged into poverty." The majority found the dissent's fears unreasonable, noting that even in the remote event that all three children went ot Harvard, most students there receive financial aid and that state college tuition is far less. Moreover, the court noted, Father could move to modify the award should it become unreasonable.
Eppler v. Eppler, 2005 Ind. App. LEXIS 2132 (November 14, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/11140503pdm.pdf (last visited November 16, 2005 bgf)