Payment for Private School Tuition………Mandatory?

Alan R. Burton Attorney at Law

The question of payment for private school tuition comes up frequently during the divorce process. Can this obligation be continued after the divorce, so that the child can continue on with his or her private school enrollment?

The answer to this question depends upon the circumstances existing during the marriage.

In Wilson v. Wilson, 559 So.2d 698, 700 (Fla. 1st DC 1990), it was stated that the court may order a non custodial parent to pay for private education expense if it finds that” the parent has the ability to pay for private school” and the “expenses are in accordance with the family’s customary standard of living and are in the child’s best interest.”

This legal premise was clearly set forth in Luskin v. Luskin, 492 So.2d 783 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986). In Luskin, the trial court denied the wife’s request to compel the husband to pay for the children’s private school tuition and camp expenses. On appeal, the decision was reversed. The appellate court held that the trial court had applied the wrong legal standard to the payment of these expenses. The proper standard, as stated by the court, is a balancing of “needs as fixed by the parties’ standard of living, on the one hand, and ability to pay, on the other.”

In Luskin, the husband had the ability to pay private school tuition and summer camp costs, and these expenses were in accordance with the family’s customary standard of living and were in the children’s best interest. Accordingly, the court could order these payments as further support for the children.

However, if payment for tuition for private school, or payment for camp is to be sought, it is very important that the person requesting these payments clearly state so in his or her respective pleadings. Failure to formally plead such a request, even if it is within the customary budget and best interests of the children, will in fact result in a denial of that obligation being paid. In other words, if you don’t ask for something, you will not be entitled to receive it. See Gelman v. Gelman, 24 So.3d 1281 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).

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