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A Better Partnership
May 22, 2015

COA upholds court’s right to order child support for high school students, even after age 18

In Lee v. Smith, No. 320123, the Court of Appeals affirmed an order for child support payments under MCL 552.605b(2), which allows a trial court to order payments for children over the age of majority who are enrolled in high school full-time and have not yet reached the age of 19 years and 6 months.  While limiting language in Subsection (5) of the act could be interpreted as requiring parental agreement before such payments may be ordered, the court held that when reading the act as a whole, the legislature’s clearly expressed intent was to authorize courts to award payments for children between the ages of 18 – 19 ½ who were still attending high school.
Plaintiff Marlo Ann Lee brought an action for child support to provide for the parties’ 18-year-old son.  The court found that because the child was enrolled full-time at an accredited high school, was taking sufficient credits to graduate, lived full-time with the recipient of the payments, and had not yet reached the age of 19 years, 6 months, MCL 552.605(b)(2) allowed for an award of child support.  Based on this analysis, the court ordered the defendant to pay $580 per month for the remainder of the child’s high school career.
The defendant appealed this decision, arguing that Subsection (5) of the act limits the court’s ability to award child support payments for children over 18 to instances where the parties have agreed to these payments.  The Court of Appeals found that the agreement requirement in Subsection (5) was inapplicable and was instead intended to provide for orders extending beyond the child reaching 19½ years of age, such as an agreement by the parties to provide for college expenses.  Determining that Subsection (2) and Subsection (5) of the act therefore have very distinct and independent purposes, the court affirmed the order of the trial court requiring the defendant to make child support payments for the parties’ adult child.

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