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Can Your Broward County, Florida Divorce Judge Extend Child Support Beyond The Age of Majority?

In Rose v. Rose the Fourth District of Appeals recently reviewed a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage entered by Judge Renne Goldenberg, a divorce judge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The father appealed the trial court’s order granting the mother’s request for an extension of the father’s child support obligation until their daughter graduated from high school. The Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court located in Broward County, Florida.

In 1994 when the parties were divorced, they had agreed that the father would pay child support for each minor child until “they reach the age of majority, marry, die, graduate from high school or becomes self supporting, whichever occurs first.” Three months before their daughter reached the age of majority, the mother petitioned the court for modification of child support. Because their daughter would turn eighteen while still in high school, the mother requested the court extend the father’s obligation until the child graduated from high school. The trial court granted the mother’s request and entered summary judgment for her concluding that the child’s passage to majority while still in high school constitutes a substantial change not contemplated by the parties.

In order to modify your child support obligation, a party seeking modification must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances and must show that this change is significant, material, involuntary and permanent in nature. Here, the parents had specifically contemplated in their marital settlement agreement the time when the father’s support obligation would terminate. The Fourth District Court of Appeals did not agree that the parents had failed to contemplate their child reaching the age of majority before graduation when the parties listed this as an event that would terminate the child support obligation. Finally, the court explained that the parent’s obligation to support their children is limited to their minority and dependency except as provided for in Florida Statute, § 743. 07(2).

Florida Statute, § 734. 07(2) authorizes support for dependent children beyond the age of eighteen years old when such dependency is because of a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to the child reaching majority age. Or, if the person is dependent in fact, is between the ages of 18 and 19 and is still in high school, and performing in good faith with the reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19.

An order for child support should track the language of § 743.07, Florida Statutes, and require the payment of child support “until such time as the child reaches age eighteen, marries, becomes self-supporting, or dies, whichever comes first.” Generally, the obligor is legally obligated to pay child support until the minor child reaches eighteen, the “age of majority.” Irrespective of the statute, the parties may agree to extend the cut off, but must incorporate this agreement into their marital settlement agreement.