Any form of support for a child under the age of 18 is considered child support and can be modified by the court.
Any Form of Support for a Child Under the Age of 18 can be Modified by the Court
The 2020 case of In Re H.L.B.and B.I. B., 2020 WL 104623 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2020, No Pet. H. (mem. Op.) January 9, 2020) makes it clear that any provisions for a child’s support while the child is under the age of 18 and has not graduated from high school is child support and can be modified and enforced for obligations owed while the child is under the age of 18. The Dallas Court of Appeals cited the Texas Family Code Section which states, “A court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction may modify an order that provides for the conservatorship, support, or possession of and access to a child.” Id. § 156.001.” in support of its holding.
In this particular case, the agreed decree stated that the father would pay all of the children’s private school tuition, both parents would equally split all of the other education expenses of the children and neither parent would pay direct child support. Approximately 2 years after the divorce decree the father filed a motion to eliminate his obligation to pay 100% of the children’s private school tuition. The Court of Appeals held that the father’s obligation to pay private school tuition could be modified. Parents can agree to pay private school tuition, but it is rarely ordered by a court in a contested trial.
There are 2 important effects of this ruling: 1) any support obligation can be modified up or down before the children turn 18 or graduate from high school whichever is later; and 2) any child support obligation for payments before the children turn 18 or graduate from high school whichever is later, can be enforced, even possibly by contempt, if a parent fails to pay. Effectively, there is no longer a contractual provision for payment of child support for minor children.
The Court was clear to distinguish child support provisions for children under the age of 18 from contractual obligations to pay a child’s college tuition.
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