Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, January 18, 2023


Page 1


Child Support Duty Did Not End When Child, 18, Stopped Attending Classes—C.A.


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Div. One of the Fourth District Court of Appeal yesterday reversed an order determining that a man no longer had an obligation to provide child support inasmuch as his daughter had reached the age of 18 and was not a “full-time” high school student and requiring that his ex-wife refund $20,000 he had paid after the offspring reached her majority.

Under Family Code §3901(a)(1), child support “continues as to an unmarried child…who is not self-supporting, until the time the child completes the 12th grade or attains 19 years of age, whichever occurs first.”

The father, Brian Giles, continued paying support after his daughter turned 18 in March 2020.  She took a summer class at a high school but in September 2020, rather than returning to school, she entered an inpatient treatment facility for an eating disorder and remained there until January 2021.

She returned to school in the spring of 2021 and earned her diploma.

Commissioner’s Ruling

Giles sought a determination that his child-support obligation had ceased, and San Diego Superior Court Commissioner Adam Wertheimer granted relief, finding that the daughter had ceased to be a fulltime student after June 2020.

In his opinion reversing the order, Justice Martin N. Buchanan said:

“Neither section 3901 nor any other Family Code provision defines ‘full-time high school student,’ and the statute does not address how many credits or what amount of time in school constitutes ‘full-time.’ The proper interpretation of this term is a question of law we review de novo.”

He declared:

“We cannot anticipate every unique situation that might arise, but the goal is generally to continue child support for high-school students between the ages of 18 and 19 if they are engaged in activities towards achieving a high-school degree that would satisfy the compulsory education requirements for minor children.

“Accordingly, we conclude that ‘full-time’ in the context of section 3901 generally means ‘the length of the school day [designated] by the governing board of the school district’ where the child’s parent or legal guardian resides.”

No Precedent

He borrowed that language from the compulsory-education statute. Buchanan continued:

“Because this is an issue of first impression, neither the parties nor the trial court had the benefit of our clarification of the law.  Without any case law to guide them, the parties litigated the matter and the trial court decided it based on incorrect definitions of the term “full-time” as used in section 3901, subdivision (a).  We will therefore reverse and remand for the court to conduct further proceedings and issue a new order consistent with the above definition and other principles expressed in this opinion.”

The case is In re the Marriage of D.H. [Doddie Hammers] and B.G., D079801.


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