Child Support Agreements

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 What is a Child Support Agreement?

In general, child support refers to the recurring payments made from one parent to the other parent to enable them to provide financially for their shared child. These expenditures are required because raising a child is costly, and child support can help provide for the expenses associated with raising a child.

A child support agreement is a document to ensure that mandatory child support payments are made.

More specifically, a child support agreement is an arrangement created between the child’s parents that provides the complete terms of their child support agreements. These arrangements are commonly seen in family law disputes, such as divorce or legal separation.

Ideally, the parties should place the child support agreement in writing to document the agreed terms for child support payments. A child support agreement will usually contain:

  • The parent who will be accountable for monetary payments;
  • The amount of payment rendered;
  • The frequency of payments (e.g., monthly, weekly, etc.);
  • The term of payments (child support ends typically when the child turns 18 years old);
  • The kinds of expenses that the child support should be utilized for (e.g., medical care costs, educational expenses, health insurance, special needs, after-school sports, etc.); and
  • The costs, if any, that are the responsibility of the custodial (nonpaying) parent.

The most crucial element of any child support agreement is that it is made with the child’s best interests in mind, not the individual parent’s personal liking.

One more thing about child support agreements is that although they heed the same fundamental federal policies for what to contain, state laws deviate widely. Judges also have control over overestimations. This point is important because it can change the spans of the child support agreement.

How are Child Support Arrangements Made?

There are three primary ways to create a child support agreement:

  • Through legal negotiations between the parties, which generally involve having separate attorneys to represent each party;
  • Through “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR), which is an out-of-court procedure that may involve arbitration, mediation, or evaluation; or
  • A court child support order is administered during a divorce or a legal separation proceeding.

It is also possible to get a court’s temporary order for child support. These orders may be administered at the commencement of a divorce trial so that a child does not lack financial support throughout the procedure. Once the divorce proceedings have ended, the temporary order can be remade into an enduring order for child support.

Are All Child Support Arrangements Enforceable?

Regardless of how it was originally created, a child support agreement typically needs to be set in writing and signed by both parents for it to be enforceable. However, if the child support agreement was made out-of-court, it should still be presented to a judge for court authorization.

Presenting it to a court for consideration and authorization will help to ensure that the child support agreement complies with state guidelines. Also, child support agreements that a court does not support may not be instantly enforceable.

Further, if a court determines that a child support arrangement is unsuitable for some reason, the court can then change it. It can also refuse it completely and demand that the parties create a new one. Once the court authorizes a child support arrangement, it is usually turned into a court ruling.

When a child support arrangement is made into a court decree, it means that a parent can be held in contempt of court for disobeying a child support arrangement. The parent can then potentially face severe sanctions, such as penalties, jail time, and loss of particular civil privileges.

Whether you are attempting to implement a child support arrangement or changing one to evade sanctions, a lawyer can help navigate you through either procedure. They can help decide what possibilities are available to give you the best outcomes. In any circumstance, if you are undergoing problems with a child support arrangement, you should consult an attorney.

How Do Informal Negotiations Work?

If parents are inclined, they can arrange their child support agreement with or without the aid of lawyers. The issues that must be determined include:

  • Who pays?
  • Payment amount
  • Any other things to be covered beyond essential support (private school, daycare, sports, university)
  • Commonness of payments
  • How long child support will persist

The parents may choose to have their lawyers handle the negotiations in some cases. Or the parents may negotiate themselves and then confer with their lawyers before finishing the child support arrangement and presenting it to the court.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

An alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method like mediation or cooperative law for parents who need help resolving their child’s support dispute may help.

ADR processes are less hostile, which can promote early settlement. Parents and their lawyers have an active part in negotiating critical decisions with mediation and collaborative family law. With a professional mediator, even couples in dispute can find ways to work jointly. But both parties ought to be ready to try.

Although seldom used in family law matters, arbitration is another ADR option. In arbitration, an impartial third party decides after hearing each side’s evidence and statements. The arbitrator’s judgment in a child support case is not necessarily definitive. The parties can still resort to family court.

Completing the Child Support Arrangement

If parents reach an agreement through negotiation or ADR, one of their attorneys will draft a written contract. The agreement may be called a “settlement agreement.” If child support is part of a divorce, it may be called a “divorce agreement” or “dissolution agreement.”

What Happens When One Parent Has Primary Physical Custody?

If one parent is granted sole legal or physical custody, the court may determine that the non-custodial parent should be obligated to help out by making payments. A court will select child support based on available income, the kids’ age, and other elements when deciding on the amount.

What Happens When Parents Are Unmarried?

In some cases, two people may have a child together, never marry, and then split, leaving the child to live with one or the other parent. In this case, both parents are still instructed to provide for the child’s well-being, and the non-custodial parent may be bound to contribute through regular child support payments.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Child Support Arrangements?

Child support agreements require full collaboration between the parents and complete compliance with the law. As such, it is vital to contact a child support lawyer for any questions or troubles that you may have regarding a child support agreement.

An experienced child support attorney can help check that your child support agreement is enforceable, complies with the local laws of your state’s jurisdiction, and includes reasonable terms for both you and your child.

Further, a child support arrangement delivers the most protection when submitted to a court for acceptance. This ensures that the deal was assembled correctly and per the law. It also preserves a record of the agreement for future reference and can then be implemented by the court, if necessary. An attorney can help you handle this procedure as well.

Across the board, the goal of a child support arrangement is to make sure that your child is well provided for. Having an attorney study your agreement can also assist you in accomplishing this significant outcome.

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