A popular song from 2005 took a cynical look at certain aspects of couples and family relationships. In the song, the rapper opines, “She got one of your kids, got you for 18 years.” The lyric, of course, is a reference to child support and the commonly held notion that a parent owing support could potentially pay from the child’s birth until the child reaches the age of majority on her 18th birthday. In states like Florida, however, this notion is not precisely accurate. A recent case from North Florida illustrates this point. The First District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court’s decision to award child support to a father, even though he filed his request for support after the daughter had already turned 18 years old. Why did he win? He won because, although the child was 18, she had not yet graduated from high school.
The parties to this case, R.P. (father) and S.B. (mother), were married and had one daughter together, who was born in the fall of 1996. The couple divorced in 2013. At the time of their divorce, and as part of a subsequent mediated agreement, the parents decided that neither would owe any amount of child support. At that point, the child apparently split time living with each parent. After the mother ceased letting the child stay at her home, the father launched a court action in late October 2014, seeking child support from the mother.
One somewhat unique factual element of the case was that the father filed his case two weeks after the daughter’s 18th birthday. The mother agreed to pay support from May 2014 until the date of the daughter’s 18th birthday, but she objected to paying anything after that date. The trial court, however, ordered her to pay from May 2014 until May 2015, which corresponded to the month when the daughter graduated from high school.
The mother appealed the ruling, arguing that the trial court lacked the legal authority to issue an order demanding the payment of support for a child who was already a legal adult by the time the father filed. This argument failed because it was not in line with the clear rules of the Florida Statutes, the appeals court stated in rejecting the mother’s appeal. Section 743.07(2) of the Florida Statutes allows a parent to file a request for support regarding a child who has already reached her 18th birthday in some situations. Support may still be owed if the child is between 18 and 19 years old, is a “dependent in fact,” is still in high school, is advancing “in good faith” toward graduation, and has a “reasonable expectation” of graduating before she reaches her 19th birthday.
In this case, the daughter met all these criteria. She was 18, still a dependent living with her father, working her way in good faith through her senior year of high school, and on target to graduate in May 2015, five months before her 19th birthday. Based on these facts, the trial court had the authority to demand that the mother continue paying support until the daughter completed her high school studies and graduated.
Family law is one of those legal areas in which certain aspects may seem “cut and dried” to most people but may, in reality, still be filled with nuances and variables. That’s just one reason why it pays to have a skilled professional on your side who has a detailed knowledge of the law. The hardworking South Florida child support attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have the experience you need to help you pursue your case. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Calculating Child Support in Florida When a Parent Has Been Recently Fired or Laid Off, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 27, 2016
Use of Wrong Basis for Contesting Child Support Modification Costs South Florida Mom, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 17, 2015