Once a child turns eighteen, the Texas Family Code provides that child-support payments can continue as long as the child is still enrolled in school pursuing a high-school diploma. However, at what point is a child no longer considered to be pursuing a high-school diploma for child-support purposes? Recently, one Texas father found out.
In a new Texas family-law appellate opinion, a father was ordered to make child support payments until his son either turned eighteen or graduated from high school, whichever occurred later. Five months after his son’s eighteenth birthday, the father petitioned the court to terminate his child-support obligation. The father alleged that his son was no longer enrolled in high school and, therefore, he should no longer be obligated to make child support payments.
At final trial, the father testified that, when his son turned eighteen, he was in his senior year, regularly skipping classes, and failing to complete his schoolwork. He testified that, as a result of poor attendance, his son did not graduate at the end of his senior year. At the time of final trial, the son was no longer enrolled in high school and was instead enrolled in an online school. However, the father presented several pieces of evidence showing that the online school did not keep track of attendance and allowed students to complete coursework at their own pace. Father’s evidence further showed that his son was only enrolled in a single class at the online school, had not submitted any assignments despite being several months into the program, and was making no progress towards earning course credit. At the close of trial, the trial court agreed with the father’s argument and terminated his child support obligation.
Dissatisfied, the mother appealed. On appeal, the mother argued that the son’s enrollment in online school was enough to meet the requirements of the Texas Family Code such that the father’s child support obligation should continue. While the Court of Appeals conceded that a private school, like this online school, could satisfy the requirements of the Texas Family Code, this particular online school did not take attendance, which rendered it impossible to determine if the son was meeting the Texas Family Code’s minimum attendance requirements. However, the evidence showed that the son had made no progress towards completing assignments and learning objectives, or earning course credit. Essentially, the son was only nominally enrolled in the online school instead of actively pursuing a diploma. As such, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s decision and affirmed the termination of the father’s child-support obligation.
Cases like this exemplify the nuance involved in Texas child support law and the importance of hiring an experienced Texas child-support attorney who can spot any issues with your current child-support obligation. Whether or not you find yourself in a similar circumstance as the father in this case, please call (214) 692-8200 to consult with an experienced attorney at McClure Law Group, PC today.