One of the most important things to determine when the parents of a child do not live together is who will provide for the child financially. There are multiple ways to determine what obligation each parent will have for financial support of a child. In cases where the parents have a contentious relationship, court intervention may be required to determine each parent’s rights and obligations. If the parents of a child have an amicable relationship, however, it can be best to come to an agreement regarding child support without seeking the guidance of the court.
Drafting and Filing Agreements
Generally speaking, even if parents are able to come to an agreement regarding financial support of a child, they should seek the guidance of an attorney to ensure no aspect of support has been overlooked and that they have not inadvertently waived any rights. In some cases an attorney may be able to review the agreement on behalf of both parents, while in other cases each parent will have their own legal counsel.
It is vitally important that any child support agreement be written down and filed with a court that would have jurisdiction over any action determining the custody and support of the child. Filing the agreement makes it easier for the court to enforce the agreement, should one parent no longer abide by its terms. Generally, if any consent agreement regarding the support or custody of a child is filed with a court, the court will review the agreement to ensure it is in the best interest of the child. Factors considered in determining whether something is in a child’s best interest is what affect it will have on the child’s health, development, and wellbeing.
Essential Terms of Support Agreements
First, it is important that any support agreement have a clearly defined provision that allows for modification of the agreement and defines how any modification must be made. Support agreements can be in effect for a long time and it is prudent to anticipate the need for modification should circumstances change. A parent may have a substantial increase or decrease in his or her income, which would likely be grounds for a modification. In other cases, a parent’s income will remain the same but his or her financial obligations will increase and he or she may no longer be able to pay the agreed upon amount. Additionally, the amount of time each parent has physical custody of a child may change, which would also constitute a change that may require a modification. It is also prudent to have a provision stating the agreement will be periodically reviewed to ensure it remains fair for both parents and continues to adequately provide for the child.
Regarding the financial support of the child, it is essential to set forth the amount to be paid, the frequency of payments and the method of payments. It is also important to define which parent will be responsible for each anticipated cost of raising the child, such as health insurance, out of pocket medical expenses, education related costs, and the costs of any hobbies or activities. There should also be a provision regarding how any disputes over whether costs incurred are reasonable or necessary should be settled. Lastly, the agreement should set forth which parent will be permitted to claim the child as a dependent on his or her tax return.