Can the Parents Agree on a Child Support Amount & Submit to the Office of Child Support?

By Beverly Bird

When parents divorce, the amount of child support payable from one to the other is never left to chance. Courts take the position that children are entitled to live as well post-divorce as they did when their parents were together. The obligation to support them takes precedence over almost every other post-divorce financial consideration. If you're facing divorce, you and your spouse can agree to an amount of support, but it must be in your child's best interests.

Guidelines

All state legislatures have committed to certain guidelines for calculating child support – mathematical equations that apply in all divorces within the jurisdiction. The majority of states use the income shares model. This takes both parents' incomes into consideration and each parent pays a percentage toward the children's care commensurate with his contribution to the combined income total. A handful of states simply use a percentage of the non-custodial parent's income based on the number of children he must support. Three states – Delaware, Hawaii and Montana – use a more sophisticated version of the income shares method. In all cases, parents must typically calculate support based on their state's method before they seek the court's permission to adjust it upward or downward as part of their divorce action. If parents agree to a different amount, the court must approve it and incorporate it into the final divorce decree. If it's deemed unfair to the children, a judge will not do this.

Deviations

Judges can take it upon themselves to deviate from a guideline's child support amount as well, and they will do so under certain circumstances. For example, in Maryland, the court can adjust support if a divorce's custody arrangement calls for the children to spend 35 percent or more of their time with the non-custodial parent. In Alabama, a judge might deviate from the guideline support amount when the non-custodial parent lives some distance from his children and it's anticipated that he will incur a lot of travel expenses to facilitate visitation. If a parent feels that the support amount is unfair, he can petition the court to change it during his divorce proceedings, but such efforts are usually met with limited success.

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Parental Agreement

If you and your spouse want to deviate from a state guideline amount of support, most courts impose a few requirements. For example, parents can't agree to a different amount in California if either of them receive public assistance or there is evidence of coercion – for example, one parent bullying the other into asking the court to vary from the guideline amount.

Waiving Support

Parents cannot agree to waive support entirely, and it's highly unlikely that a court would approve a marital settlement agreement that includes such a provision. This money is meant for your children's care and well-being; as a parent, you can't decline this right on their behalf.

Office of Child Support

A state's office of child support usually only enforces or modifies existing orders. An agreement – such as a marital settlement agreement including child support provisions – must be submitted to the court and signed off on by a judge before it is legally binding.

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The 8 Major Steps in Calculating Child Support in the State of New Jersey
 

References

Related articles

New Mexico Child Support Regulations

In New Mexico, the amount of child support is determined based on the principle that a child should receive the same level of support he received while his parents were married or still living together. This requires both parents to contribute to the total obligation in proportion to their incomes, based on a formula established by state law. Once ordered, the child support obligation lasts until the child reaches the age of majority.

Florida Child Support Regulations

Each state has different rules when it comes to child support, but Florida allocates the support amount between parents based on each parent’s share of the spouses’ combined income. This model of determining child support, called the income shares model, is based on the idea that children should receive the same financial support during the divorce process, and once the divorce is finalized, as they received when their parents were still married.

Alabama Laws on Child Support & the Restart of Child Support

Child support in Alabama is usually determined in a straightforward manner. As in many other states, Alabama uses the "income shares" model to determine child support. The formula takes into account the combined gross income of both parents, percentage each parent earns and several other factors such as who pays for health insurance. Either parent can ask for the child support amount to be recalculated at any time when there is a change of circumstances. There are situations when child support is stopped and then restarted, but they are rare.

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