A private school education is important to many parents. Many parents that contact us about child support issues inquire about the obligation to continue paying for private school as a component of child support. While a court may impose the responsibility on a parent to continue paying for the cost of private school following a divorce, the court will apply a balancing test to determine if such an order is appropriate.
In Wilson v. Wilson, 559 So.2d 698, 700 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), the court established a test for determining whether a parent may be ordered to pay for the costs of private school. The test formulated by the Wilson court has three parts:
- The obligated parent must have the ability to pay;
- The expense of private school is within the family’s customary standard of living;
- Ordering the parent to pay for private school is in the best interest of the child.
A careful analysis of the financial standard of living of a family may be critical in persuading a Florida family law judge to order a parent to pay for private school tuition and other related expenses. The court in Luskin v. Luskin, 492 So.2d 783 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986) applied this standard in ordering a father to pay private school tuition following the parties’ divorce.
In Luskin, the mother of the minor children requested that the father be ordered to pay private school tuition. The trial judge denied the request despite a recommendation by the guardian ad litem that the minor children continue private school and summer camp to promote stability for the children. The judge in the trial court reasoned that he could not order payment of expenses that were not necessities.
The appellate judge reversed the trial court and found that the court applied the wrong legal test in ruling that it could not order the non-custodial parent to pay private school tuition. The appellate court found that the father had the ability to pay and the expenses were in line with the customary standard of living for the family. Because requiring the other parent to pay the expenses was also in the best interest of the children, the trial court had the authority to order the father to pay the children’s private school tuition.
If you have concerns about the obligation of parents to pay less conventional forms of child support, such as private school tuition, experienced West Palm Beach family law attorney James S. Cunha can answer your questions and advise you of your rights. No matter where you are located, the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. is just a phone call away.