Genesee Circuit Court LC No. 13-308921-DS
Before: Murphy, P.J., and Stephens and Gadola, JJ.
Defendant appeals as of right from the trial court's order requiring him to pay child support of $580 a month from August 7, 2013 to May 31, 2014, while the parties' son, who had attained the age of majority, attended high school. We affirm.
The parties' child was 18 years old when plaintiff filed this action for child support. He was enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited high school, and was taking sufficient credits to graduate. Defendant argues that the trial court was not authorized to enter an order of child support after the child was 18 years old without an agreement by the parties. He argues that the trial court erred in finding that MCL 552.605b(2), which is part of the Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act (SPTEA), MCL 552.601 et seq., authorized the award of child support.
The interpretation of a statute is reviewed de novo, as a question of law. Driver v Naini, 490 Mich. 239, 246; 802 N.W.2d 311 (2011). A court's primary goal when interpreting a statute is to discern legislative intent first by examining the plain language of the statute. Id. at 246-247. Courts construe the words in a statute in light of their ordinary meaning and their context within the statute as a whole. Johnson v Recca, 492 Mich. 169, 177; 821 N.W.2d 520 (2012). A court must give effect to every word, phrase, and clause, and avoid an interpretation that renders any part of a statute nugatory or surplusage. Id. Statutory provisions must also be read in the context of the entire act. Driver, 490 Mich. at 247. It is presumed that the Legislature was aware of judicial interpretations of the existing law when passing legislation. People v Likine, 492 Mich. 367, 398 n 61; 823 N.W.2d 50 (2012). When statutory language is clear and unambiguous, courts enforce the language as written. Lafarge Midwest, Inc v Detroit, 290 Mich.App. 240, 246-247; 801 N.W.2d 629 (2010). A statutory provision is ambiguous only when it irreconcilably conflicts with another provision or is equally susceptible to more than one meaning. Id. at 248.
MCL 552.605b was added to the SPTEA by 2001 PA 106, effective September 30, 2001. Orders of child support issued pursuant to a judgment of divorce were previously governed by MCL 552.16. In Smith v Smith, 433 Mich. 606; 447 N.W.2d 715 (1989), our Supreme Court interpreted multiple provisions of Michigan's divorce laws, MCL 552.1 et seq., including MCL 552.16, and the Age of Majority Act, MCL 722.51 et seq. The Court held that Michigan law did not authorize courts to order post-majority child support for a child over the age of 18. Id. at 632-633. Although the Supreme Court's decision in Smith prevented courts from independently ordering post-majority child support, the decision did not preclude courts from enforcing an agreement by the parties to pay such support. Holmes v Holmes, 281 Mich.App. 575, 590-592; 760 N.W.2d 300 (2008); Aussie v Aussie, 182 Mich.App. 454, 464; 452 N.W.2d 859 (1990).
In response to the Supreme Court's decision in Smith, in 1990, the Legislature enacted MCL 552.16a. Rowley v Garvin, 221 Mich.App. 699, 706; 562 N.W.2d 262 (1997). MCL 552.16a, as enacted by 1990 PA 243, provided the following:
(2) Beginning on the effective date of this section, the court may order support for the time a child is regularly attending high school on a full-time basis with a reasonable expectation of completing sufficient credits to graduate from high school while residing on a full-time basis with the payee of support or at an institution, but in no case after the child reaches 19 years and 6 months of age. A complaint or motion requesting support as provided in this section may be filed at any time before the child reaches 19 years and 6 months of age.
(4) Notwithstanding subsection (2), a provision contained in a judgment or an order entered under this act before, on, and after the effective date of this section that provides for the support of a child after the child reaches 18 years of age is valid and enforceable if 1 or more of the following apply:
(a) The provision is contained in the judgment or order by agreement of the parties as stated in the judgment or order.
(b) The provision is contained in the judgment or order by agreement of the parties as evidenced by the approval of the substance of the judgment or order by the parties or their attorneys.
(c) The provision is contained in the judgment or order by written agreement signed by the parties.
(d) The provision is contained in the judgment or order by oral agreement of the parties as stated on the record by ...