Children need the support and care of their parents. Generally, parents are required to give appropriate care to their children until they reach the age of 18. There are times, however, when children may need regular care beyond that time due to a mental or physical incapacity. Caring for an incapacitated child can become even more difficult through divorce. Fortunately, there are provisions within the law that help parents of incapacitated children.

Extending Child Support Past 18 Years

The Florida rules regarding child support in Florida can be found under Florida Statute section 61.13. Under section 61.13, every child support order and income deduction order entered on or after October 1, 2010 must provide, among other things, that child support must end on the child’s 18th birthday unless the court finds, or has found, that an exception applies. There are currently two exceptions, both of which can be found under Florida Statute section 743.07. The first case for extending child support past the age of 18 is if the child is currently in high school, performing in good faith, and has a reasonable expectation of graduating before the age of 19. The second situation in which a parent may extend child support payments is when the child suffers from a mental or physical incapacity that began before the individual reached maturity if the individual is dependent on the parent.

Mental or Physical Incapacity

While the statute does require a mental or physical incapacity that causes the child to be dependent on the parent after reaching the age of 18, the statute makes no mention as to the severity of the incapacity. For example, in Pitts v. Pitts, the court awarded an extension of child support payments when the child suffered from attention deficit learning disorder and mild dyslexia. The child in question was an 18-year-old student who had just finished the 11th grade. The court noted that the child was not able to both support himself and study for school, and affirmed the award of child support until he graduated from high school.

As seen from this case, incapacitation alone is insufficient to warrant an extension of child support, as the courts look to the dependency of the child as a primary factor. In Pitts, while the child did suffer from permanent mental incapacitations, the incapacitations would have only caused dependency while the child was attending high school. In addition, the support extension did not last indefinitely, but was limited by the extent the child would have been dependent on the parent.

Contact an Orlando Attorney

Going through a divorce while supporting a family can be a stressful can be a difficult thing to deal with. Fortunately, there are provisions within the laws that allow parents and spouses to meet the needs that may arise as a result of the divorce. If you are thinking about getting divorced, or if your spouse has filed for divorce, then contact a dedicated, skilled attorney at The Law Office of Natalie D. Hall, PA, for a case evaluation.