Child Support and Private School Tuition

If your child attends a private school, tuition costs may be factored into your child support.

Florida courts look to a number of legal factors when determining child support amounts, but just as important are the means by which a parent is expected to support children. For example, one child support issue that can arise in divorce is whether Florida courts may order a parent to pay for private school tuition.

The 2002 case of Forrest v. Ron sheds lights on this issue.

Can Courts Order a Parent to Pay for Private School?

In the Forrest v. Ron case, it was demonstrated that courts may order to pay for private school tuition based on a number of factors that must be met. First, a parent must have the means (ability) to pay for private school. Second, private school attendance must be in the child’s best interest, and such attendance must be within the child and family’s customary standard of living.

When these factors are present, a court may order a parent to pay for private school based on Florida case law. More recent cases have affirmed the reasoning of the Forrest v. Ron case. In the 2005 case of Herrera v. Herrera, it was once again found that courts may order a parent to pay for private school. Using the same reasoning found in Forrest v. Ron, the Florida court also noted that both parties agreed to provide private school for all their children until the children completed second or third grade.

However, the court indicated that whether the agreement ended at second or third grade was a “question of credibility.” As such, the appellate court found that the trial court did not abuse its judicial discretion by finding that the parties agreed to provide private school until each child completed third grade. Based on this assessment, the appellate court affirmed the child support order requiring the payment of private tuition.

The takeaway of these cases is that the analysis of a family’s customary standard of living and a parent’s ability to pay is crucial. As a general rule, it is likely that attending private school is in a child’s best interests if the matter is being taken to court. Private schools may offer a superior education, and the children may have already attended private school where they made friends and need educational continuity. As such, demonstrating that ordering private school tuition payments would conflict with the family’s standard of living or a parent’s ability to pay is a strong legal defense, based on Florida case law.

If you have concerns about parental obligations to pay private school tuition in Florida, The McKinney Law Group will advise you of your legal rights. Contact us for a free legal consultation to discuss your legal concerns regarding Florida child support.

If you have questions regarding your child support, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]