Beginning July 1, a new state law will take effect which reduces the maximum age of a child that a parent is required to pay child support. The new Indiana law reduces this requirement by two years. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals clarified the law in a ruling on June 8. The court ruled that the law does not apply retroactively to child support orders decided before the law goes into effect.

The new law, Senate Enrolled Act 18, changes the maximum age required for parents to pay child support from 21 to 19. Prior to the change, Indiana’s requirement that child support be paid until the age of 21 was different than most other states, which generally terminate child support obligations at age 18 or 19. Two other states besides Indiana had also required child support until age of 21, though come July 1 our state will be in line with the overwhelming majority of states across the nation.

Many noncustodial parents had believed that they were allowed to stop paying child support once their child had turned 18 years of age. This misunderstanding had led to a backlog of unpaid child support cases, which reduced Indiana’s share of federal funds which are targeted to assist low income families. Parents who had stopped paying child support early faced criminal penalties and other enforcement actions.

The important ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals was made on a case brought by a father who argued that the law entitled him to a refund of child support payments he made while his daughter was between the ages of 19 and 21. The appeals court denied the father’s claim in a 3-0 decision. The court ruled that the Indiana legislature did not intend for the law to apply retroactively, and thus, the father will not be able to reclaim funds already paid under the expiring law.

Source: The Times of Northwest Indiana, “Appeals court denies child support refund,” Dan Carden, June 8, 2012