Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Child Support

When a child turns 18 before graduating from high school, does a Florida family court have the ability to extend support beyond the child's 18th birthday? It used to be argued that if the petition was filed after the child turned 18, the court had no jurisdiction to modify the child support. However, DOR v. Jackson, 217 So.3d 192 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017) clarifies this issue. 

The parties' child turned 18 in December 2015 but was due to graduate in June 2016. In January 2016, the Department of Revenue ("DOR") filed a petition to modify support, requesting that it be extended until the child graduated from high school even though the child was already 18. The trial court dismissed the petition, holding DOR had no standing to seek this type of relief because the child had already turned 18 by the time the petition was filed. 

In reversing the trial court's dismissal, the appellate court relied on chapter 743 of the Florida Statutes which states: 

"(1) The disability of nonage is hereby removed for all persons in this state who are 18 years of age or older, and they shall enjoy and suffer the rights, privileges, and obligations of all persons 21 years of age or older except as otherwise excluded by the State Constitution immediately preceding the effective date of this section and except as otherwise provided in the Beverage Law.

(2) This section shall not prohibit any court of competent jurisdiction from requiring support for a dependent person beyond the age of 18 years when such dependency is because of a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to such person reaching majority or if the person is dependent in fact, is between the ages of 18 and 19, and is still in high school, performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19."

Fla. Stat. 743.07 (2017).

The last part of subsection 2, the appellate court reasoned, means a parent or DOR has the right to seek support for a child who is 18 so long as the stated criteria of the statute is met. On remand, the trial court was required to award child support arrears to the mother since by the time the appeal was decided, the child had already graduated from high school. 

To avoid the uncertainty, time and money that comes with appealing this type of order, it is best to include in any settlement agreement or final order a provision which allows for support until the child graduates from high school, even if the child turns 18 before. A Miami child support lawyer can assist you in drafting this language, and it starts with a consultation.