While a court can decide how much child support a parent should pay, it is possible for the parents to use an informal process to agree on child support. In the informal process, you can reach a child support agreement in two ways. In the first way, the parents can have informal negotiations among themselves to reach a settlement. In the other method, parents can opt for alternative dispute resolution using a child support mediator.
Regardless of which method parents use, it is essential to note that if you create a child support agreement outside of court, you would still need the court’s approval to ensure the agreement complies with the child support guidelines that the state has.
Even if you negotiate child support with any mediation or court supervision, it is still advisable to have a child support letter the from father or mother as you would have to present the letter or agreement in court to ensure that the payment is fairly negotiated. Once the court approves the child support agreement, it becomes a binding order that the parents have to comply with or face legal consequences.
For example, if a child support settlement agreement has been converted into a court order, and the agreement is violated by a father who repeatedly fails to make support payments on time, the mother can go to court to enforce her rights to child support payments under the order, and the father will face additional fines or even jail time if he fails to meet his child support obligations under the order.
Who Takes the Child Support Agreement – People Involved
The child support agreement occurs between the father and mother of the child who are divorcing, separating, dissolving their civil union or annulling their marriage. The agreement can also be between one or both parents of the child and the non-parent caretaker who is legally taking care of the child. In both situations, the agreement can be agreed to in an informal manner or through the family law court.
Purpose of the Child Support Agreement – Why Do You Need It?
In family law, child support is view as a periodic payment that the non-custodial parent has to make to the custodial parent, caregiver, the state, or a guardian. The child support agreement clearly mentions the amount of money that the non-custodial parent has to pay and by which date.
The money provided to the custodial parent can not only be used for the child’s education, daily living needs, school fees, day care or tuition fees, but it can also be used to improve the standard of living of the custodial parent’s home, so that the child enjoy better comfort and living standard in the household. However, most jurisdictions clearly highlight the expenses that fall under the purview of child support.
The parents of the child can use the child support letter as to clearly delineate the expenses that will be covered by the payments, so that there is no scope for misunderstandings later on. As long as the agreement follows the state guidelines on child support, the judge will not strike down the voluntary child support agreement letter between parents. In case the non-custodial parent does not agree to pay child support then the court will step in and pass an order to ensure that the parent in question pays an amount that the court deems fit.
Contents of the Child Support Agreement – Inclusions
You can use a child support letter sample to draft your agreement. Typically, a child support agreement should include:
- Names of the custodial and non-custodial parents
- The number of children for whom the custodial parent is seeking child support
- The date of birth of the child
- The name of the non-custodial parent who will be paying the child support
- The amount that the parents have agreed
- The date when the child support payments will begin
- The date by when the payments should be made each month
- Any other payment that the non-custodial parent will be making to cover additional child-related expenses
- The date when the payment for additional expenses will begin and the frequency of the payment
- The responsibility of the custodial parent, such as maintaining health insurance and dental coverage for the child
- The state jurisdiction under which the child support payment and other expenses are being made
- The date when the child support payments will come to an end
- Any other details or information that the parents want to make part of this agreement
The child support agreement form has to be signed by the parents, two witnesses and the attorneys of both parents. Thereafter, it can be submitted to the court to make it a legally binding order for the custodial and non-custodial parent.
Once the agreement becomes legal, it is still possible to modify it. You can increase, reduce or stop child support if you get a new agreement with the parent of the child. This will require the parents to petition the court and show that they have a new agreement in place. If the court sanctions the new agreement, it will come into effect and supersede the earlier agreement.
How to Draft the Agreement
When you are drafting a child support agreement, there are a few things that you need to consider.
- A child has legal to financial support from both parents, but the parent with a higher income usually pays child support.
- Ensure that the agreement is simple and logical
- Mention who is the custodial and non-custodial parent
- The amount of money that the non-custodial parent will pay each month along with the date when the payment becomes due each month
- It is a good idea to mention the things that the child support should cover
- You can even include a plan that covers things, like health insurance, school tuition and other large item purchase
- Don’t forget to state the date when the child support agreement will be re-evaluated
- The agreement should precisely represent decision of the custodial and non-custodial parent and should not coerce one parent to accept the agreement
- Remember, both parents have to sign the agreement before it is submitted to the court for final approval by the judge
If you are finding it difficult to draft the agreement, use a child support agreement template that you can modify and customize based on your requirements.
It can be a bit tricky when negotiating the child support agreement. You and the child’s parent will be upset with the breakdown of your relationship, so it is best to wait until tempers cool down. Ensure you do not attack the parent nor threaten to withhold child support. Instead, keep the lines of communication open, so that you can have a discussion to come to an understanding so that the child’s best interests are maintained.
Benefits & Drawbacks of the Agreement
Some of the advantages of having a child support agreement are as follows:
- The agreement does away the need to have expensive and time-consuming court cases and litigations
- The agreement can be customized based on the unique circumstances of the parents
- Gives peace of mind to the non-custodial parent that the child will have the same standard of life as what they had when the parents were together
- Parents can use child support mediators if they have a strained relationship and still come to a conclusion
- The agreement can be modified and it can be permanent or temporary based on the circumstances
However, the agreement also comes with a few disadvantages, which are:
- The modification in the agreement has to be ratified by the court
- The non-custodial parent may feel the pinch financially
- The agreement binds the non-custodial parent to make payments until the child reaches age of majority
- The unmarried father has to pay child support to the mother of the child even if not ordered by the court
- If the agreement does not detail the expenses of the child, the custodial parent can misuse it as only 10 states in the US demand that custodial parents account expenses and spending of the child support payments
What Happens in Case of Violation?
Once the court accepts the child support agreement, it becomes a binding decree. So, if the non-custodial parent breaches the agreement, the overdue payments become arrears. Judges are strict in collecting arrears. Even if the non-custodial parent requests the judge to reduce the payment, the judge will first ask the parent to pay the arrears in full. This order could be for immediate payment or in installments.
In case the non-custodial parent refuses to pay child support in accordance with the agreement, under the Child Support Enforcement Act 1984, the district attorney is obligated to assist the custodial parent to get the owed child support payment. The district attorney can make use of legal procedures to locate the non-custodial parent and get them to make the payment.
Federal law allows the district attorney to intercept the non-custodial parent’s tax refunds to ensure they adhere to the agreement and pay child support. Other ways to ensure a parent pays child support as per the agreement are seizing property, denying passport application or renewal, suspending business or driver’s license, wage attachment.
If the non-custodial parent breaches the child support agreement, as a last resort, the court can hold the parent in contempt and impose fine and even can put under imprison term.
While child support is paid to the custodial parent, it is prudent to realise it is meant for the child. Hence, you should not fight it if you want the best for your child. You can use sample child support agreement letter to create your own agreement based on the discussions you have with the other parent.
The child support agreement should contain all the details that you have discussed related to the payment and expenses that the custodial parent will incur on behalf of the child. This way, there will be no scope for misunderstandings or ambiguities. It also is an amicable way to come to an understanding on child support payments rather than involving the court, as enforcing child support through the court can be long, stressful and expensive procedure.