Monday, November 26, 2007

Paternity, child support and funeral expenses - 31-14-11-17

Another difference between child support for divorce cases and paternity cases. Indiana Code 31-14-11-17 reads as follows:

If the child dies while a support order is in effect, the court may order either or both parents to pay reasonable funeral expenses.
I have not used this statute in my years of practice. I do not recall of ever hearing of the statute being used, but there it is. Thankfully, no children in my paternity cases have died.

A few points come to mind: 1) that a third party might be able to intervene in the case - seeing as both parents might be ordered to pay the funeral expenses; 2) while in casual conversation we tend to lump educational benefits in with child support, this may be an instance where the distinction is important (this emphasizes "support order" as a child support order); and 3) if the child support continues to 21 then this statute continues to that age (which might make parents a bit quicker to emancipate in paternity cases).

I did find one case interpreting this statute. Stott v. Stott, 737 N.E.2d 854 (Ind.App.,2000) upheld the court's order directing father to pay his deceased daughter's funeral bill. The Court of Appeals considered that the language paralleled the statue on child support about reasonableness and could not see any abuse of the trial court's discretion. However, the case leaves one question - the underlying case was not a paternity case but a dissolution of marriage case.

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