One of the most challenging aspects of divorce that many parents face is the question of who will be responsible for the financial obligations of their children's education. If you live in Florida and have children attending private school, you may wonder who is responsible for tuition after the divorce. This blog post will discuss the legal framework surrounding private school tuition in Florida and provide guidance on this often-confusing issue.
Overview of Florida Divorce Laws
Florida is a "no-fault" divorce state, meaning divorces are generally granted due to irreconcilable differences between parties rather than based on one party's fault or wrongdoing. Under Florida law, the court must divide the couple's assets and liabilities fairly and equitably so both parties can start their new lives as economically independent individuals. If a divorcing couple has minor children, a child support order will be created based on a range of factors used by Florida family courts.
A relevant appellate case, Maali v. Maali, 5D20-53 (Fla. 5th DCA March 5, 2021), addressed this issue. In the case, the trial court entered a final judgment of dissolution of marriage, which simultaneously included a child support order. The former husband was required by court order to pay the children’s private school tuition and rehabilitative alimony to the former wife. In calculating the former husband’s child support obligation, the trial court did not deduct from the former husband’s gross income the amount he was required to pay the former wife as alimony. The former husband appealed.
The appellate court also found it was an error for the trial court not to deduct the alimony being paid by the former husband from his income in the child support calculations. The case was remanded for the trial court to remedy this error in addition to others. Private school tuition is separate from child support, and whether a parent would be required to pay it depends on factors such as whether a parent historically paid it and whether a parent can afford it.
On the issue of private school tuition, the appellate court found it was an error for the trial court to require the former husband to pay where parents historically paid the tuition and where the former husband was ordered to pay alimony, child support, and the housing expenses for the parties' marital home, the record did not reflect he also had the ability to afford private school tuition on top of these other obligations.
Factors Impacting Court-Ordered Private School Tuition in Florida
Private school tuition is not automatically considered a necessary expense under Florida law and, therefore, may not be included as part of child support. Instead, it is considered an extraordinary expense, which means that a judge may require both parents to contribute to the expense according to their financial resources and income.
When deciding who is responsible for private school tuition, Florida courts will consider several factors, including:
- The financial resources of each parent
- The child's educational needs and history
- The child's best interest
The court may consider other factors relevant to the case as well. Ultimately, the decision of how much each parent contributes to private school tuition will be decided after a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of the case.
In summary, private school tuition is not automatically included as part of child support in Florida, and parents must contribute to the expense according to their financial resources and income if it is deemed an extraordinary expense. If you are going through a divorce and your child attends private school, it is important to consider this when negotiating a divorce agreement. By working together to reach an agreement that meets everyone's needs, you can avoid a costly court battle and ensure that your divorce does not disrupt your child's education.
Contact the Law Office of Paulette Hamilton
The best approach to resolving specific divorce issues like this one is to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney who can help you navigate complex divorce-related financial matters to a favorable outcome. With the right legal advice and support, you can find a solution that works for everyone. If you are going through a divorce and have concerns about private school tuition and child support, the Law Office of Paulette Hamilton is here to help. You can send a message online right now to connect with Attorney Hamilton regarding your case. You can also reach our office today by calling [[INVALID_TOKEN]] to schedule a consultation and get the support you need.