Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer

Who Pays the Tuition for Private School

Your children have attended private school since their first day of kindergarten. They are well adapted and progressing within their grades. Most of their friends attend the same school and they enthusiastically participate in various extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, the happy marriage that was in place when the private schooling began has fallen by the wayside. Now, your ex-spouse no longer sees the value of the children attending private school and refuses to assist with the expensive tuition payment. Can the judge make a parent pay private school tuition? It depends.

Determining Child Support in Florida

By statute, the Florida courts must consider a variety of factors when determining child support obligations. To start the process, judges must use the state’s child support guidelines, which uses a calculation process to consider the incomes of both parents and determine a standard child support amount. The law then allows the judge to deviate from that statutorily determined amount by about five percent more or less, after careful consideration of all relevant facts.

In determining whether to order the payment of private school tuition, the court looks at the following:

  • – Whether the parties agree that the child or children will attend private school;
    • -If there is no agreement, the court will determine whether the child or children were accustomed to attending private school prior to the separation of the parties;
  • – Whether the private school is meeting special needs of the child that cannot be met in a public school setting; and
  • – The percentage of payee’s income used for the private school payment.

If, after consideration of these elements, the court decides to include payment of private school tuition in the child support payment, the statute allows for a deviation from the standard payment calculation in an amount larger than five percent.

Florida Case Law

Florida case law exemplifies how courts make private school tuition determinations according to the specific facts of each case.

  • – In Pollow vs. Pollow 712 So.2d 1235 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998), the court agreed with the child support deviation based on a determination that the private school expenses were justified. The child in this case had special mental health needs that required the resources of the private school. However, the court also found that the husband’s income was inadequate to pay the private school tuition, after a determination that his payment of child support and private school tuition accounted for more than 75 percent of his monthly income.
  • – In Friedman v. Carr 777 So.2d 1012 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2000), the court struck down an order for a noncustodial parent to pay private school tuition. In this case, the child was enrolled in a private preschool upon separation of the parents. After the separation, the custodial parent enrolled the child in a private elementary school with significantly higher costs. Due to the custodial parent’s independent actions, in addition to the high cost of tuition, the court ruled that the tuition payments were not mandatory.

Vanessa L. Prieto will work with you to secure the wellbeing of your family. Located in Fort Lauderdale, our office serves Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. Call us today at 954-800-2362 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.