When can a child support obligation be extended past the child’s 18th birthday in Florida?
Usually, a court orders child support up to a child’s 18th birthday. This is typical, in most states, the age of majority at which children are considered to now be adults.
From October 2010, child support orders in Florida were set to terminate on a child’s 18th birthday, unless a child is dependent on a parent because of mental or physical incapacity OR if a child is still in high school and is expected to graduate before the age of 19.
The specific month, day, and year must be mentioned on a child support order on which the termination of that order becomes effective. This new rule was implemented so that support orders can end automatically on a specified date, saving the court time and avoiding unnecessary court procedures.
Extension is possible
But, the court will consider extending the child support obligation if children still live with their parents and are dependent on that parent for most of their needs. However, it is not compulsory for the court to order support for children over 18. Each case will be considered on its own merit.
A judge will deem the following as contributing factors in his/her decision:
• Is the child still living with the recipient of the child support? How much time does the child spend at home with the recipient?
• Why is the child still depending on the recipient?
• What is the child’s academic situation?
• Does the child have their own bedroom? Can the parent help the child with schoolwork?
• How much can each parent contribute to post-secondary education?
My original order doesn’t say anything about what happens when the child turns 18
If you still need support after the child turns 18, a new complaint about child support needs to be filed. Your lawyer can help you with this.
Situations where child support can be extended:
• The child is still in high school
Your child can turn 18, but can still be in school and be depending on you for support. Before 2010, the child support obligation may have stated that child support will end when the child graduates from high school or upon his/her 19th birthday – whichever one comes first. Under the new 2010 ruling, this happens automatically.
• Extension by pre-arrangement
Some parents may agree privately that child support must be paid until the child is 19 or 21. Such an extension will be honored by the court if by pre-arrangement and if both parents agree to it.
• Special needs support
It is highly likely that the courts will favorably consider the extension of child support for a special needs child. Such children do not mature at the same rate as ‘normal’ kids and child support may be necessary for a few years more until the child is ready to be self-dependent.
In some cases, this may never happen and under Florida law, the child support obligation may be ordered to stay in place for a long as the child lives.
The special needs status needs to be mentioned prominently in the final court order or child support modification. If not, it may fall away automatically when the child turns 18 and a plea to continue this child support cannot be reopened.
• College support
The court may decide to order a parent to pay for college. They will consider how the parent is going to pay for it, what other aids are available and what the child’s living arrangements will be. Such support can be discretionarily allocated as to what the particular parent can afford.
Back payments after a child turn 18
In a situation where child support payment is still owed, and the child turns 18, back payments are still due and enforceable.
The obligation to pay child support is a long-term one. For some, the obligation can stretch into a child’s adult years. Make sure you know what your rights are.
A family law attorney such as Kimberly Schultz can best assist you and explain the relevant laws in Florida to you.