Child support agreements provide for the basic needs of the child. When establishing child support courts look at a variety of factors. This includes what parents earn, their ability to earn, and the number of overnights each parent has with the child.
Parents may create a child support agreement letter. If the court determines it does not fulfill the needs of the child or the law, they will not accept the agreement. For this reason, it is always advisable to seek the advice of an attorney regarding child support laws in your state.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about creating a mutual agreement for child support.
What to Consider When Establishing a Child Support Agreement
There is a wide range of factors that go into providing for the financial needs of a child. This includes housing, food, medical care, extracurricular activities, daycare, and schooling. In addition to financial needs, another important factor is how many overnights each parent has with the child.
If one parent has the child sleeping at their home five nights a week and the other only two, that will be taken into consideration. For example, take a case where the father has five overnights a week and the mother two. If the mother has a higher income, she will pay child support even though she has the child for less time.
If the parents have a 50/50 arrangement for parenting time, that does not necessarily eliminate child support. If there is a difference in the parental income levels, one parent may still need to pay child support to the other.
Parents sometimes try to sidestep support obligations. One way of doing this is by cutting their work hours or changing to a lower income position. This may backfire if your state uses the standard of “ability to earn” in calculating child support.
For instance, one parent has a master’s degree and has the ability to earn a high wage, but has taken a menial, low pay position. When making child support calculations that parent’s wages may be calculated at the higher wage they have the ability to earn.
Binding Child Support Agreement Requirements
Once you reach an agreement you must write a child support order. The order sets forth the agreement and the criteria required by statute. The judge’s signature makes it enforceable under the law.
The child support order will include each parent’s name and specify if they are the payor or payee. The order will list the amount of the payment and its frequency. It will also show if payments will be sent via check, bank transfer, or payroll garnishment.
The order will show who pays other financial obligations. This includes extraordinary medical expenses and medical insurance.
Terminating Child Support
Even if you and the other parent agree to terminate child support, your state’s child support statute takes precedence. This means your individual state may require child support to age 18, age 21, or through college. There may also be provisions for children with special needs.
According to the Special Needs Alliance, many courts hold parents responsible for supporting adult special needs children. This applies if as an adult the child lacks the ability to provide for their own care. Some states do not require adult support because state statutes have no provisions for special needs adult children.
Does Social Security Affect Child Support?
If your child is receiving social security because of the disability or retirement of a parent who pays child support, that social security will be given consideration in determining that parent’s child support obligation. Some courts treat social security payments made to a child as income for the parent. Others treat the payment as if it is the child’s own income, reducing the support obligations of both parents.
When it comes to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) a child is receiving, the courts do not consider this money. The reasoning is that neither parent “earned” the social security the child is receiving and therefore the benefits are not an offset to parental obligations to support.
Child Support Modifications
Each child support order will include a provision regarding modification. Changes to the wages of each parent, age of the child, overnights the child spends with each parent, and other factors may create the need for a change in child support. Often support orders have standard review times of 2-3 years to determine if changes are necessary.
Child Support Benchbook
Every state has a Child Support Benchbook that sets forth all considerations and laws when making a support determination. Benchbooks provide an overview of legal procedures for a particular area of law. Judges use them as a guide when making rulings from the bench.
The Florida Child Support Benchbook from 2016 covers a variety of topics including:
- Child Support Legal Outline including procedures and relationships
- Establishing paternity and disestablishing paternity
- Creation of child support orders
- Charts showing support estimations according to income and number of children
- How to arrive at the correct support amount
- Collection and enforcement
- Modifying support orders
- Child support in cases of dependency, domestic violence, or dissolution
- The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
The Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (1994) requires courts to enforce child support orders from other states. They are also unable to modify an order from another state unless there is a transfer of jurisdiction.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (1996) deals with the difficulties of enforcing child support orders that cross state lines.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Creating Child Support Agreements?
While it is possible to create a child support order on your own, you will likely have questions regarding the law and calculations. The rules and procedures regarding this process vary from state to state. For example, in Michigan parents deal with Friend of the Court, which works with parents in determining an appropriate support amount according to state law.
In Florida, child support services are through the Florida Department of Revenue in all counties except Miami-Dade and Manatee. They handle all aspects of the child support process including:
- Establish paternity
- Locate parents
- Set up and modify orders of child support
- Take action to obtain parental compliance with support orders
- Receive and distribute child support payments
- Provide assistance and education to parents regarding child support
The law is extensive and the recommendation is to use this lawyer, who has the experience to assist you in making sure your agreement complies with the law.
Your Child Benefits From a Child Support Agreement
The creation of laws regarding child support agreements came about to prevent children from being deprived of support. It doesn’t matter whether a child is the product of a marriage or a non-marital relationship, each child benefits from the financial support of both parents. It is important to establish a child support agreement that is fair to both parents, the child and comports with state law.
Make sure these factors are met by contacting a family law attorney. If you have other legal questions we suggest you look over our blogs for more great information.