Can we just agree to change the child support amount?

I had a person in my office recently who said that he and the children’s mother had agreed to reduce the amount of child support he had to pay because he was laid off from his old job and his new job didn’t pay as much.  They even had a document that said the amount would be reduced, and it was notarized.  He thought their agreement would cancel the court order.

And then she took him to court for non-payment and he was charged with failure to comply with an order of the court which included a possible jail sentence of up to one year.

First of all, when the Judge issues that piece of paper telling you what to do… it is not a suggestion….it is not an example….it is not an ‘if you want to’ or ‘if you feel like it’.  It is an ORDER.  That means you have to do it or face consequences.

Secondly, having a document notarized does not make it more ‘legal’ than having a document that isn’t notarized.  Most of the time, a notarization just means that the person signing the document produced identification saying they were the person who’s name was on the document.  This may keep your girlfriend from signing your wife’s name, but it doesn’t make the document legal.

What they should have done was to go to court to file a motion to amend child support due to a material change in circumstances.  His change in employment status would probably have met the criteria for a material change, especially if both of them agreed.  Then the court would have recalculated the child support payment from the date of the petition.  You can also provide the court with a ‘Consent Order’ that says you agree to an amount even if that amount is different from the amount that would be calculated by the statutory guidelines.

Sure it takes time out of your day to go to court to get the amount changed….but it is probably worth it when you consider the amount of time you might be spending going to court on a show cause….and the possibility of going to jail!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

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