Private School Tuition: A court cannot order a parent to pay a portion of private school tuition, or all of it, unless there are proven needs which support an above guideline child support obligation.
Texas follows a standardized child support formula found in Texas Family Code 154.062 and 154.125, Texas also puts a ceiling upon the amount of child support which can be calculated. In 2017, this is $8500.00. Thus, the presumed maximum amount of child support is 20% of $8,500 for one child, 25% of $8,500 for two children, 30% for three children, etc. Doesn’t matter that a parent is making $60,000 a month – no greater child support can be ordered above a calculation for $8,500.00 unless a “special need” is shown. Lifestyle (country club, horseback riding lessons, tennis, 12,000 square feet of home, dance) is not a special need. Neither is private school tuition.
Just because a parent would like a child to attend a private school – Jesuit, Ursuline, TCA, whatever for whatever reason – Catholic education, better education, smaller education, no telling what — that is not good enough and will not support a court order that compels one parent to pay for private school tuition.
In 2011 the Dallas Court of Appeals spoke to this issue in the case In RE M.A.M. There the court said this:
“To impose child support beyond the guidelines, the record must contain evidence of the “proven needs” of the child. Tex. Fam.Code Ann. § 154.126(a) & (b) (West 2008). To establish private school as a proven need, the evidence must show something special that makes the particular child need or especially benefit from some aspect of non-public schooling. In the Interest of Pecht, 874 S .W.2d 797, 801–02 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 1994, no writ) (evidence supported private school as proven need for child with severe learning disabilities).
The trial court found it was in the child’s best interest that beginning on January 1, 2009 Father pay as additional child support seventy-five percent of the child’s private school tuition not to exceed $10,950 per year. However, the record in this case contains no evidence that private school is a “proven need” of the child.
The evidence does not show the child has any type of learning disability or any other type of need that requires the services offered only at a private school. Mother herself testified she intended to look for a house in a good public school district. Mother did not see private school as a need of the child. Father looked into public schools in Atlanta. He did not view private school as a need of the child. Mother cites to evidence that Dr. Doyle recommended the child stay at the Dallas International School if she remained in Dallas. Dr. Doyle explained that the parents chose that school and it was best that the parents agree on the school. She also acknowledged the public school option in Atlanta looked good to her as well. Dr. Doyle did not testify that private school was a need of the child.
We conclude there is no evidence that private school is a “proven need” of the child. Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion in ordering Father to pay a portion of the child’s private school tuition. We sustain Father’s first issue.”
Flip this around, if a child does have a special need – a disability. If a certain private school can address that special need then upon a showing of that special need the trial court may order above guideline child support. Thus, in this situation – a parent can be ordered to pay for a part of or all of the Private School Tuition.
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