CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (ICA NOS. 27851 and 28049; FC-DIVORCE NO. 96-1929)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Duffy, J.
*** FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAI # I REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER ***
Electronically Filed Supreme Court SCWC-27851 27-SEP-2011 08:48 AM
RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, ACOBA, DUFFY, AND McKENNA JJ.
OPINION OF THE COURT BY DUFFY, J.
Defendant-Appellant Aldo Macapal Jaylo (Father) presents this court with a case of first impression: whether Hawai # i Revised Statutes (HRS) section 580-47(a) authorized the family court to order educational support for a disabled but competent child age 23 or older when the 2004 Family Court's Amended Child Support Guidelines (2004 Guidelines) established pursuant to HRS § 576D-7 provided that such support may be continued only until the child attains the age of 23. The family court answered this question "Yes". We agree, for the reasons discussed herein.
This case arose from the divorce between Father and Plaintiff-Appellee Rosemarie Aguirre Jaylo (Mother). The parties married in 1980 and had three children, including twin daughters born on April 14, 1980. One of the twins (Daughter) has been blind since birth, and it is her educational support which is at issue in this case. The parties were divorced in 1996 pursuant to the terms of the July 29, 1996 Decree Granting Absolute Divorce and Awarding Child Custody (Divorce Decree). The Divorce Decree awarded Mother full legal and physical custody over the minor children, and Father was ordered to pay child support until each of the children reached the age of 18, or graduated from high school, or discontinued high school, whichever occurred last. Father was additionally ordered to provide child support for each child as long as they continued post-high school education, until graduation, or until the child attained the age of 23, whichever occurred first.
A. Mother's Post-Decree Motion to Re-establish Child Support. On May 24, 2005, Mother filed a post-decree motion, which is the subject of this appeal. In her motion, Mother sought, inter alia, an order reestablishing educational support for the parties' Daughter, who was 25-years old at the time the motion was filed, and pursuing a college education. A trial was held on September 9, 2005. The family court made the following relevant findings of fact and conclusions of law:
2. Pursuant to the [Divorce Decree], Father was obligated to pay child support for the parties' three minor children[.] . . .
3. Father's child support obligation set forth in the [Divorce Decree] was to continue uninterrupted so long as each child continues his education post high school on a full-time basis at an accredited college or university, or in a vocational or trade school and shall continue until each child's graduation or attainment at the age of 23 years, whichever event shall first occur.
6. The parties' daughter, [Daughter], was 25 years old at the time of the trial in this matter. [Daughter] is legally blind based on her absolute lack of light perception in both eyes.
7. [Daughter] completed her high school education at Washington State School for the Blind in the Spring of 2000 [at the age of twenty].
8. [Daughter] entered a six-month program funded by the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, the purpose of which was to assist blind students such as her to learn to live independently.
9. After completing the foregoing program in July 2001, [Daughter] pursued her college education by enrolling at Edmonds College in Lynnwood, Washington . . . .
10. [Daughter] then transferred to Seattle Central Community College in Seattle, Washington . . . .
17. [Daughter] . . . has an uncovered need of $834.00 per month, which in the past has been paid by Mother.
21. Mother and Father's combined monthly gross income is $9,773.00 per month, of which 37% is attributable to Mother, and 63% is attributable to Father.
23. Hawai#i Revised Statutes Section 577-7(a) provides, in pertinent part, that "[a]ll parents and guardians shall provide, to the best of their abilities, for the discipline, support, and education of their children."
24. Hawai#i Revised Statutes Section 580-47(a) provides with respect to child support that [the] "[p]rovision may be made for the support, maintenance, and education of an adult or minor child and for the support, maintenance, and education of an incompetent adult child whether or not the petition is made before or after the child has attained the age of majority.
25. In addition to the foregoing, the Court has continuing jurisdiction over the issues of child support and the children's post high school, higher educational expenses, as such continuing jurisdiction was specifically reserved in the [Divorce Decree].
26. Applying the gross incomes of the parties to the applicable child support guidelines, Father's child support obligation would be $660.00 per month, and Mother's child support obligation would be $390.00 per month. However, this Court concludes that [Daughter's] receipt of her own income of $625.00 per month is an exceptional circumstance warranting deviation from the parties' child support obligation under the child support guidelines.
27. Accordingly, the Court concludes that [Daughter's] current reasonable monthly need is $834.00 per month, and that good cause exists to require Father to be responsible to pay 63% ($525.42 per month) and Mother to be responsible to pay 37% ...