Under Florida law, the legal duty of a parent to support their child ends when the child reaches the age of eighteen. A court may order that the parents are to provide continued support to a child who has reached the age of eighteen if that child is less than nineteen years of age, in high school, performing in good faith, and reasonably expects to graduate from high school before turning nineteen years of age. Child support may also be awarded for a child who is dependent due to mental or physical incapacity which began prior to that child turning eighteen years of age. Because most children attend college after turning eighteen, the simple answer to this question is: in most cases, no.
The Florida Supreme Court has established that a parent’s duty to provide a college education for their child is a moral obligation, not a legal obligation. If the now adult child is not legally dependent on a parent or there is no legally enforceable agreement that the parent will provide a college education for the child, the court cannot impose a legal duty onto that parent where no legal duty exists. A child’s attendance at college does not make that child legally dependent on their parents. The Florida Supreme Court has held that it would be unfair for the court to require a divorced or unmarried parent to pay for a child’s college education when the court cannot order a married parent to provide this education.
Sometimes, divorcing parents agree that either one parent or both parents shall contribute to their child’s college education and include this in their Marital Settlement Agreement. Because a Marital Settlement Agreement creates a binding contractual obligation, a court can enforce the agreement and order that parent to pay the certain college education expenses that are contained in the agreement. Additionally, if you or your spouse purchased the Florida Prepaid College Program before the filing of your divorce petition, the court will likely find this is a marital liability and will likely require payment.
At Birnbaum, Lippman & Gregoire, PLLC, we pride ourselves on offering the best Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade County divorce attorneys. We provide personal, effective, and compassionate legal services at competitive rates.