Post-secondary education expense orders are provided for in Indiana Code 31-16-6-2. Some parents reach an agreement regarding payment of their child’s post-secondary education expenses through their dissolution proceeding or subsequent modification of their Decree. For those parents who are unable to reach an agreement, the allocation of payment for those expenses can be ordered by the Court after a hearing on the issue. Whether the issue of payment of post-secondary education expenses is settled by agreement or through the Court, one issue parents may not foresee is the allocation of tuition remission or other benefits on behalf of one parent’s employment.
When making an order for payment of post-secondary education expenses, the Court is to consider several factors, including the child’s reasonable ability to contribute to educational expenses through work, obtaining loans, and obtaining other sources of financial aid reasonably available to the child and each parent. According to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines, which provide more guidance on post-secondary education expense orders, the Court should take into consideration scholarships, grants, student loans, summer and school year employment and other cost‑reducing programs available to the student when making an order for payment of post-secondary education expenses. Neither the Indiana code nor the Child Support Guidelines define what “other sources of financial aid” or “other cost-reducing programs” are, or whether tuition remission available to one parent qualifies as that parent’s contribution or is credited towards the child’s share of expenses.
The Court is given broad discretion to determine whether to credit any portion of scholarships, grants, and loans to either or both parents’ share of the expenses. Tuition remission could fall into the category of “other sources of financial aid reasonably available to each parent” and be apportioned to the child’s share. Since the Court has such broad discretion regarding this issue, any parent who believes they may be entitled to a tuition remission or other benefit as a result of their employment should expressly account for such benefit when reaching an agreement on the issue of post-secondary education expenses. If the issue is being litigated, the question of ownership of the tuition remission benefit should be directly litigated so that there is no confusion about ownership of the tuition remission or other benefit when the child begins college.