If you and your divorcing spouse are on relatively good terms, negotiating a divorce agreement may help you save money and trouble while allowing you to personalize your own solution. Family courts routinely allow settlement agreements covering all the major areas of divorce -- property division, child custody and visitation, child support and spousal support.
However, when negotiating any divorce agreement -- particularly those involving child custody or child support -- you really should consult a lawyer. These areas of law are complex, with strict standards judges will insist on. Many things you and your spouse might find acceptable could be rejected by a family court judge.
That being said, working with a divorce attorney you can negotiate a divorce agreement that works for you. When the judge approves it, the agreement will be made a part of your divorce decree and become a court order.
In today's post, let's talk about a few ideas to consider when negotiating a child support settlement.
What Do I Need to Know Before Negotiating a Child Support Agreement?
Like most states, Georgia bases child support amounts on a formula called the Georgia child support guidelines. The guidelines take into account things like your incomes, how much time each of you will have custody of the children, how many children you have (together or separately), and any special needs your children have.
After gathering that information, Georgia family courts basically punch those numbers into the formula and come up with how much child support should be ordered. Although they are called "guidelines," judges aren't free to simply ignore them. You need a pretty good reason to deviate from what the formula recommends -- a very good reason if you want a lower amount than the guideline figure.
With the Georgia Child Support Guidelines, Is There Any Reason to Negotiate a Child Support Agreement?
Yes. Even if you accept the guideline figure for your child support, there are lots of issues you may want to agree on in advance.
- How will legitimate disputes be resolved? We're not talking about one parent refusing to pay, but rather what will happen if you disagree about what is required. If you can't work it out on your own, will you go to mediation? Will you talk to a lawyer together? Take every issue to court?
- Will the payee-parent be required to give the paying parent an accounting of how the child support funds are spent?
- What will happen if child-related expenses come up that aren't required as part of child support? For example, what if one parent wants to send the kids to an expensive summer camp? Would the other parent be expected to pay but have no say?
- What will happen if one parent needs a temporary increase or break in the child support? Suppose one of you or a new spouse becomes unemployed but the situation is temporary. Would that be something you could resolve out of court? How?
- How often should the agreement be reviewed? Should you set up a friendly annual review, or would you prefer a more formal child support modification hearing through the court?
Remember, whenever you negotiate a legal agreement: Be honest, be fair, and try to be understanding. Finally, always have your attorney review any agreement before signing it.
"Coming Up with Your Own Child Support Plan" (FAQ for Single Fathers, mrdad.com)