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June 14, 2011

Repudiation of Parent - Child Relationship – Indiana College Expense & Child Support Law

In a recent case the Court of Appeals reviewed the legal standard for repudiation of a parent relationship by a child and the effect of the repudiation on that parent’s obligation to provide college expense support. 

Repudiation of a parent is “a complete refusal to participate in a relationship with his or her parent.” Norris v. Pethe, 833 N.E.2d 1024, 1033 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005) (citing Bales v. Bales, 801 N.E.2d 196 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), trans. denied). Under certain circumstances, repudiation will obviate a parent’s obligation to pay certain expenses for the child, including college expenses. Norris v. Pethe, 833 N.E.2d 1024.

The Court explained the reasoning behind the repudiation doctrine:

“[W]here a child, as an adult over eighteen years of age, repudiates a parent, that parent must be allowed to dictate what effect this will have on his or her contribution to college expenses for that child.” McKay v. McKay, 644 N.E.2d 164, 166 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994) (citation omitted). Moreover, adult children who willfully abandon a parent must be deemed to have run the risk that such a parent may not be willing to underwrite their educational pursuits. Such children, when faced with the answer ‘no’ to their requests, may decide to seek the funds elsewhere; some may decide that the time is ripe for reconciliation. They will not, in any event, be allowed to enlist the aid of the court in compelling that parent to support their educational efforts unless and until they demonstrate a minimum amount of respect and consideration for that parent.”
Id. at 167 (quotation omitted).

After considering evidence that the child did not return phone calls or emails placed by father, the Court found that the child did not repudiate the relationship with the father.  “[R]epudiation by a child is a complete refusal to participate in a relationship with his or her father. Repudiation is more than poor communication.” See Staresnick v. Staresnick, 830 N.E.2d 127 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005). Additionally, at the time of the alleged repudiation the child was under eighteen.  To find repudiation, "there must be evidence the parent stood with open arms to maintain a relationship with his or her adult child and that the child completely rejected such efforts and refused to participate in the relationship." McKay v. McKay, 644 N.E.2d 164.