Child Support After the Age of Eighteen (18) in Florida
As a general rule, the legal duty of a parent to support his child ceases at the age of majority, which in the State of Florida is 18 years old. This is because a parent has no legal duty to continue to provide support to a child who has reached the age of majority, unless the trial court has made a finding of dependence pursuant to section 743.07(2), Florida Statutes, or the parties otherwise agree. However, child support may continue beyond the age of 18 years for a dependent person if: (1) the dependency is due to mental or physical incapacity which began prior to the person reaching the age of majority; or (2) the person is dependent in fact, is between the ages of 18 and 19, has not graduated high school, and is expected to graduate some time before the age of 19.
Both the common law and statutory law impose upon a parent a duty of support for an adult dependent child who, because of mental or physical incapacity, beginning prior to the child reaching majority, is unable to support himself or herself. Therefore, a dependent child whose disability began prior to him or her reaching the age of majority has a right to support from both parents under Fla. Stat. § 743.07(2).
Any request to extend child support must be made by a parent prior to the minor child reaching the age of majority or before the child has graduated high school, if the child is between the ages of 18 and 19, has not graduated high school, and is expected to graduate some time before the age of 19. Otherwise, the trial court lacks jurisdiction to extend the child support for the minor child where such a request is made after the child reached the age of majority. This essentially means that the court no longer has the authority to enter such an order. An order entered without subject-matter jurisdiction can be attacked at any time because a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction goes to the foundation of the court’s power to adjudicate the case presented. However, the minor child is not without potential relief to seek financial support from his or her parents, if needed. Although the trial court lacks jurisdiction to modify or extend the previous award of child support, the minor child’s right to parental support cannot be destroyed so easily. After the child reaches the age of majority, the rights of support and meaningful relationship belong to the child, not the parent; therefore, neither parent can bargain away those rights. A child may be able to bring an independent action for financial support against his parents, if necessary. This provision only applies when the child’s dependency is due to mental or physical incapacity. Typically, in these matters, the adult dependent child must be declared incapacitated or incompetent.