Florida Court Discusses Grounds for Extending Child Support Obligations

Typically, when a party is ordered to pay child support, the obligation lasts until the child receiving the support turns eighteen. In some instances, however, the obligation can extend past the age of majority. Recently, a Florida court discussed the grounds for extending a support obligation in a case in which the plaintiff sought support from her father due to her disabilities. If you are a Florida resident dealing with a dispute over child support obligations, it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney to discuss what steps you can take to fight to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff, who was twenty-seven years old, filed a petition seeking child support from her father. The plaintiff had Down Syndrome, which prevented her from obtaining and maintaining gainful employment. When her parents divorced, her father was ordered to pay child support until the plaintiff turned eighteen, but since that time, she relied on her mother for financial support.

Allegedly, the defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s petition, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. He further alleged that there was no provision in the order dissolving his marriage that allowed the plaintiff to seek support, and no continued support was sought while the plaintiff was a minor. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. She then appealed.

Grounds for Extending Child Support Obligations

Under Florida law, the obligation of a parent to support a child usually ends when the child reaches the age of majority, but exceptions arise when the child is unable to financially support his or herself due to a mental or physical disability. Further, Florida law specifically imposes an obligation on a parent to support an adult dependent child who is unable to earn an income due to a disability that began when the child was a minor. Specifically, the appellate court noted that the Florida legislature modified the child support statute, explicitly providing an exception for the continued support of dependent adults.

In cases in which a parent obligated to provide support fulfilled his or her support obligation as indicated by the final judgment of dissolution of the parent’s marriage, the law provides that a separate action for support must then be brought by the adult child in a circuit court. Based on the foregoing, the court rejected the defendant’s arguments and ruled that the matter was properly before the circuit court. Additionally, the court found that the law allowed the plaintiff to seek support as a dependent adult child. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Florida Attorney

All parents have an obligation under the law to provide financial support for their children, and in some cases, the obligation can last well into adulthood. If you are the parent of a child with a disability, you should speak to an attorney regarding your rights and the rights of your child. The trusted Florida family law attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can assess your case and advise you of your options for pursuing a just outcome. You can reach us via our form online or at 800-283-7442 to schedule a conference.

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