You have a pending case involving a child (divorce, SAPCR, modification) and child support has been established. However, like most parents you are concerned about the future—what happens when the children go to college, how will I afford their expenses then? Most people say that you can “save the child support” but that is not ideal. Children are expensive and it is highly likely that you will spend all of the child support and then some with all of the things that come up throughout their lives until they turn 18 or graduate from high school. Child support ends on “removal of the child’s disabilities for general purposes, the marriage or death of a child, or a finding by the court that the child is 18 years of age or older and is no longer enrolled in high school or a high-school equivalent program.” In the Interest of W.R.B. and B.K.B., Children. So, what are your options to ensure that your children can get a college education and have support from the other parent?
This issue is addressed in In the Interest of W.R.B. and B.K.B., Children from the 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas. There, the Dallas Court of Appeals addressed the issue of post-majority support which is defined as applying “only to a non-disabled child who is 18 years of age or older and is no longer enrolled in high school or a high-school equivalent program” Tex. Fam. Code Section 154.001(a). Therefore, this creates or allows for a specific scenario in which the other parent would still be required to make support payments. In this case, the Court held that the trial court cannot order post-majority support on its own volition but the parties can agree to post-majority support in writing. In the agreed modification orders, the parties had done just that. Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that it was proper for the trial court to render the order of post-majority support. However, the issue then became that the obligor parent stopped paying the post-majority expenses and so the recipient or obligee parent filed an enforcement action seeking reimbursement of all of the expenses, attorneys’ fees and interest.
The Dallas Court of Appeals held that for post-majority support, this is after the child ages out and was based purely upon the parties’ agreement and so therefore it is not enforceable in a family law court under the Texas Family Code. Rather, the proper avenue is breach of contract. This is because the agreed orders, with respect to the post-majority support, are considered a contract because it is an agreement of the parties not based upon legal authority. This is unlike the issue of child support that was ordered which remains enforceable even post-aging out of the children because the Court still maintains jurisdiction over that issue as it was awarded under the family code.