Two of the most important decisions many parents will make regarding their children center around the children’s education and their religious affiliation. Two recent cases, one from the 3d District Court of Appeal and one from the 2d DCA, demonstrate the importance of documenting the entirety of your and your spouse’s agreement regarding your children’s education, and of understanding exactly how tuition payments may affect child support calculations.
If both parents agree that their child (or children) should attend private school for some or all of their education, the marital settlement agreement between the parents should be very clear about what the couple agreed to, since when an agreement is silent on an issue, the courts will construe that to mean that the couple did not resolve that issue.
In one recent example from Miami-Dade County, Brad and Dawn reached a mediated settlement agreement in 2013 related to dissolving their marriage. The agreement called for their one child to attend Montessori school during the 2013-14 through 2015-16 school years, and for the husband to pay for the bulk of this tuition.
A dispute arose when the mother claimed that the child should attend private school throughout the entirety of his elementary education years. The 3d DCA disagreed, noting that the couple’s agreement said nothing about the child’s education after his first-grade year (2015-16). Since the agreement had no provision for the child’s education after the spring of 2016, the court declared that the child should attend public school starting the following fall.
Another issue that can arise regards paying for private school and child support calculations. In a recent case originating in Pinellas County, Patricia Gilroy paid for her children’s private school tuition and health insurance in lieu of paying child support to the children’s father, Brian Gilroy. After the mother experienced a substantial decrease in income from her job as a physician, she sought a modification in child support and asked that the tuition and insurance payments be factored into the support calculation.
The father tried, to no avail, to persuade the 2d DCA that private school tuition payments were not a permissible cost in determining child support, since the law allowed only child care and health care costs to be counted. The court, however, explained that Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes also allowed “reasonable and necessary existing” debts, which courts have long considered to include private school tuition if private education was “part of the family’s customary standard of living.”
Addressing your children’s education, especially when it involves private schooling, is a key consideration when it comes to your divorce. It is very important to ensure that the agreement recorded on paper reflects what both parents truly want, and that the financial obligations for that education are distributed appropriately between the parents. For answers to your questions about your child’s education and your divorce, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our skilled attorneys can help you seek a fair outcome for all.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Marital Settlement Agreements, Child Support, and College Students, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 17, 2014
Terms of Settlement Agreement Block Husband’s Effort to Obtain Statutory Child Support Modification, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 20, 2013