Can the Family Court Require a Parent to Contribute Towards a Child’s Private School Tuition as Part of a Child Support Order?
The Family Court can require parents to contribute towards their child’s private school tuition as part of a child support order. See e.g., LaFrance v. LaFrance, 370 S.C. 622, 636 S.E.2d 3 (Ct.App.2006).
The decision whether to order contribution for private school tuition does not require “extremely unusual circumstances” but instead turns on the facts of each case. Ables v. Gladden, 378 S.C. 558, 664 S.E.2d 442, 449 (2008). For example in Rabon v. Rabon, 288 S.C. 338, 342 S.E.2d 605 (1986), the family court ordered an increase in child support to cover private school costs after mother moved from Florence to Columbia and decided to enroll the four children in private school. In Haselden v. Haselden, 347 S.C. 48, 552 S.E.2d 329, 335 (Ct.App. 2001), the Court of Appeals affirmed a family court order requiring a divorced husband to pay two-thirds of the cost of placing the minor child in therapeutic boarding school to treat her oppositional defiant disorder, as the divorced husband had an income almost three times that of his former wife and also had retirement savings, whereas former wife had substantially larger assets but no retirement accounts or plans. In McElveen v. McElveen, 332 S.C. 583, 506 S.E.2d 1, 11 (Ct.App. 1998) the court set father’s child support obligation based, in part, on the child’s $500.00 a month private school tuition.
In contrast, in Upchurch v. Upchurch, 367 S.C. 16, 26-27, 624 S.E.2d 643 (2006), the Supreme Court refused to impose an child support obligation on mother based on the children being enrolled in private school due, in part, to a finding that the private school tuition was “likely anticipated at the time of the separation agreement and divorce decree.”