Simons, Thurman & Fix, P.C.

Serving Rockbridge County for 30+ Years!

Understanding Child Support Agreements

A lot of people think that if both parents agree to not follow a child support order, then the support obligation simply disappears. These people could not be more wrong. Even if the parents agree to not enforce a child support court order, the receiving parent can always change his/her mind and ask for enforcement years down the road. At that point, the payor parent ends up in serious financial trouble with arrearages, simply because they trusted the good will and common courtesy of the opposing party.

The following situation is quite common. John and Mary have a child. When John and Mary separate, John is court ordered to pay Mary $500 per month in child support. John pays as he has been ordered to do. Several years later, John and Mary are amicably co-parenting when John loses his job. Mary tells him that he does not have to pay child support and that she will be fine without his support. Five years go by with John not paying support and Mary not asking for support. Five years later, Mary changes her mind and decides that she wants all that child support back. Various reasons come into play but ultimately don’t matter. She could need money for medical bills, she could be angry that John has a new girlfriend, or she could have any number of other reasons. Mary files a show cause alleging that John hasn’t paid child support in five years (which is true). The Court will order John to pay Mary $30,000 ($500 x 12 months x 5 years = $30,000) regardless of any prior agreement otherwise. It does not matter that John can prove that Mary agreed to waive child support. It does not matter whether Mary changed her mind for a good reason related to the child, whether she needs money to pay a gambling debt or addiction, or whether she was just angry at John. Court ordered child support is not able to be waived in any way, shape, or form if a Court has ordered that it be paid.

There is a simple fix to this problem. Consult an attorney when the receiving parent says they will waive child support. An attorney can file the correct motions to terminate a child support order on the agreement of the parties so that this does not happen years down the road.

The old saying says “trust but verify.” It’s great when parents agree to amicably co-parent without financial disagreements. However, when you do reach a financial agreement, you should politely ask to have an attorney memorialize it in a court order so that you do not face thousands in arrears if your co-parent changes their mind. There are several complexities to child support law, so if you are considering an agreement, consult an experienced family law attorney first.