In Florida, child support almost always ends when the supported child reaches age 18. We recently wrote about the power of a Florida court to order child support beyond age 17 for a physically or mentally disabled, dependent adult child whose disabilities began before turning 18.
The court may also order child support beyond age 18 for a dependent child while still in high school and studying in good faith of graduation before age 19, but only until the teen turns 19.
Adult support by agreement
Divorcing spouses, however, have the power to create a marital settlement agreement in which they can agree to (almost) any terms they choose. This is a way to provide for adult support for a child not only because the child is disabled or still in high school, but also for any other reason unique to the family.
For example, perhaps the child will live with one parent during college or trade school. The parties could agree that the other parent will pay support until the child graduates from a postsecondary school or reaches a certain adult age. The parent providing the adult child’s home during school might also be responsible to pay tuition and the amount of adult child support might reflect this.
On a related note, in any situation anticipating adult support, the parties may also want to negotiate who will provide health insurance for the adult child, if appropriate, as well as determine whether either party will be responsible for out-of-pocket medical bills or costs. At the time of this writing, health insurance policies must allow coverage of a child until age 26.
Modification or adult onset of support
A parent anticipating the need to extend a child support order into adulthood for a disabled child or one still in high school should get legal advice early to be sure to request the extension or modification of the original order from the court in a timely fashion. For example, if the support ends at 18, if the parent does not make the request to extend while that order is still in effect, but rather after it expired at 18, Florida courts have said that the request would be untimely.
However, if the needed support is because of disability or because the child is in high school and 18, if the parent did not request modification to extend support in time or if the support request is made for the first time during adulthood, the adult child is the proper petitioner. If the adult child is incapacitated, the request may be made on the child’s behalf by an appointed guardian (who could be a parent), “next friend,” guardian ad litem or in some other way that the court approves to protect the vulnerable person.