Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Case Law Development: Laches May Bar Emancipation Arguments in Actions to Collect Child Support Arrearages

When can a parent argue emancipation to reduce child support arrearages? In this action, approximately seven years after his son turned 21, and was thus statutorily emancipated, Father sought to reduce his child support obligation or arrearage by arguing that his son had become emancipated at age 16, ten years earlier. The trial court determined that the child had become emancipated at age 18 and reduced Father's child support arrearages.  Father appealed, arguing that the child was emancipated at 16, but was unable to establish that the child was self-supporting.  The state child support agency argued that father should be barred from arguing that the child was emancipated at all because of the doctrine of laches. 

The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that, while the doctrine of laches generally does not apply to child support cases because Indiana courts will not penalize a child for his or her parent's delay in pursuing child support, the policy behind the rule did not apply in this case.  Thus, the court held that the doctrine of laches could properly be considered in these circumstances.  The court remanded to the trial court to conduct a hearing and determine if Father's contention that child was emancipated prior to the age of twenty-one is barred by laches.


Paternity of P.W.J., 2006 Ind. App. LEXIS 819 (May 5, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited May 8, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/05/case_law_develo_12.html

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