Child Support Agreements

  Considerations For Litigants When Making Child Support Agreements

Agreeing on a Child Support Amount: In family law cases which involve children and support of children one of the questions that comes up quite often is whether or not the parties to the case can agree on a support figure that is different from what the state guideline calculation comes out to be. This can come up in many different parts of the case: one party may offer more time-sharing with the other in exchange for lower child support, a parent may prefer to have the other party contribute to the support of the child in a different manner, or a parent may just be intimidated by the other side and afraid to take the matter before the judge. It does not matter how the question comes about as the judge presiding over the matter ultimately will decide if the agreement of the parties will become part of a final order or not. Generally, parties may agree to a support amount that is above the guideline amount, but, may not negotiate below that figure. This is because the state views child support as being the right of the child and not that of the parents that they could bargain it away. That being said, many family law judges have signed final judgments that did not include actual child support payments where they were satisfied that the child was being supported in other ways along with a finding that the arrangement was in the best interests of the children involved in the case.

Where Do Child Support Cases Originate? In most parts of the country, many of the state’s child support cases are initiated by the Department of Revenue where overburdened Department of Revenue hearing officers issue child support orders with very little consideration for other options. In many areas of the country a trial on child support before a Department of Revenue hearing officer may only be docketed for a mere fifteen minutes which affords the parties very little time to discuss issues of additional discovery, issues of under employment of a party to the case, in ability to find work, or other alternatives to an actual support payment. This stands in stark contrast to child support cases that originate in circuit courts in front of family law judges as opposed to state cases before hearing officers. Circuit courts offer a much greater opportunity to conduct proper discovery in addition to greater amounts of time to conduct trials on the facts. No matter which family law court you are in the support amount is generally going to be ordered pursuant to guidelines which take into account the income of both parents, the amount of overnight time-sharing each parent workouts, day care costs, and kid’s medical health insurance expenses.

Summary: What parties in support cases can take out of this is the fact that although in many cases they might agree regarding a young child support amount they should seek advice from a family law attorney within their legal system concerning the lawful limitations that relate to this kind of contract. Additionally, when the state triggers a support motion towards a person the person should be aware that the Department of Revenue will be restricted to calculating child support only not time-sharing.  Only the court can address the time sharing.  Thus the party should weigh the advantage to have the case relocated right into a circuit court so all issues regarding the child may be heard.  Once a child support order is entered it will stay in place and can only be modified by a court.

For a consultation regarding child support or other Family Law issues call Debora A. Diaz, Esq. at 727-846-1802.