Situations in Which a Child Support Obligation Can Extend Past the Child’s 18th Birthday Under Florida Law

There exists in many places, including within popular culture, an idea that the obligation to provide child support lasts for, at most, 18 years. Under this notion, once the child reaches the age of majority, on his or her 18th birthday, he or she is a legal adult, and the supporting parent’s obligation ends. But is that really the way the law surrounding child support works? For reliable answers regarding your specific child support issues in this state, the correct move is to consult an experienced Florida child support attorney.

A case originating in Palm Beach County involved one of the potential scenarios in which child support can extend past the child’s 18th birthday. Pablo and Elizabeth were the parents of several children, one of whom had special needs. Under Florida law, in order for a child support obligation to extend past a child’s 18th birthday, the child’s special needs must be so significant that they amount to a mental or physical deficiency that makes the child “unable to support himself.” That deficiency must also have initially started prior to the child’s 18th birthday in order to trigger the ongoing obligation. When that degree of special needs exists, the supporting parent’s support obligation can continue indefinitely.

In Elizabeth’s case, she was unable to win her argument for extended child support because she failed to follow proper procedural protocols. Specifically, she had not “preserved” that issue for the appeals court to review it. She was, however, still allowed to go back to the trial court and file a new motion to request a modification of child support and, in that motion, ask for the father’s support obligation to extend past the special needs child’s 18th birthday.

A child’s having special needs is not the only situation in which a supporting parent can be obligated to pay support past the child’s 18th birthday. If a child will graduate from high school on or before her 18th birthday, the supporting parent owes an obligation to pay support until the child’s 18th birthday. If the child is on schedule to graduate from high school after her 18th birthday but before her 19th birthday, the obligation of support ends on the date of the child’s high school graduation. As long as a child remains on track to graduate, the support obligation can extend out as far as the child’s 19th birthday. For a support obligation to extend past a child’s 19th birthday, the scenario generally has to involve a child with special needs.

While these are the basic demands required by Florida law, parents can agree to do more. In other words, a pair of parents can enter into an agreement in which they agree that the supporting parent will pay support through a later age or event, such as the child’s graduation from college. As a supporting parent, it is wise to discuss an agreement with counsel before signing anything that extends your support obligation beyond what the law demands. That way, your attorney can make sure that you understand exactly what it is to which you’re potentially committing yourself.

The rules of child support in Florida, like many legal rules, have general standards but also have certain exceptions. The best way to understand your rights and obligations is to make sure you’re working with knowledgeable Florida counsel. The skilled South Florida child support attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have been helping families navigate the Florida family law system for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

When You Can Reopen Your Florida Child Support Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 19, 2017

Pursuing Child Support in Florida, Even After Your Child Turns 18, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 5, 2016


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