Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
Child support is often a topic in my divorce and paternity case appointments I have as a family law attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. As a divorce and family law attorney, I meet with clients to explain their rights and options and what are provided for under Florida law. Child support is a hot topic for many, especially when they are divorcing and there have previously been talks of college and how to pay for it. In Florida, child support is ruled by Statutes, which establish how to calculate child support and for how long child support must be paid.
During a marriage, it is common for spouses to discuss their children’s future as it relates to school and continuing on to college. College is an expense that many parents are concerned about, and rightfully so. As more kids decide to go to college due to the necessity of having a degree to find a job, parents think more about how they will pay for the rising cost of tuition and living expenses. However, when the parents decide to divorce, they now consider child support to get the kid through high school and wonder how it will impact the child’s ability to attend college.
Florida Statute 61.30 provides for the child support guidelines and establishes the time frame in which child support is required. Said guidelines provide for child support of the child through his/her 18th birthday, or date of graduation if there is an expected graduation date after the 18th birthday and the child is on track to graduate. If the child is not on track to graduate until she or he turns 19, then the child support can be extended through that expected date of graduation. Also, if the child has been diagnosed with an illness, disability or mental health problem and needs ongoing, long-term care, then child support may be provided for an indefinite period of time. However, there is not a provision that requires either parent to support a relatively healthy child through college. The only way that may be accomplished is if both parents agree to have it put into an order.
If the parents consent to ongoing support through college, then the agreement should be written with the financial expectations of each parent. If the parties agree to continue supporting their child through college, then the document should have how each parent will be contributing and what expenses will be handled by each of them and/or jointly. The reason for this is that without details specifying the obligation, the court may have a difficult time deciphering the intent of the parties if either party tried to have the order enforced for noncompliance of the other.
In most cases, parties are able to negotiate the terms of their divorce, time-sharing, child support, etc. In so doing, they can have more control over the outcome of the case versus waiting for the judge to make the ultimate decision as it relates to them and their children. Having more control over the outcome can also lead to interesting negotiations that can be more creative and may think through more long-term issues then what the court will ultimately rule on, like college. It is a good idea to speak with a family law attorney about your rights and options.