Coming Up With Your Own Child Support
Dear MrDad: My ex and I get along pretty
well and we don't want to spend a bunch of money
haggling about child support in court. Can we come
up with our own agreement?
A: If you and your ex are on pretty civil
terms, in most states you can write your own child
support agreement. As long as the needs of the
children are being met, the courts will approve
pretty much anything the two of you come up with.
And since no one knows your kids, their needs, and
your own individual financial situations better
than you and your ex, your agreement will
undoubtedly be a lot more reasonable for
Before you start working on your own child
support agreement, ask your attorney or mediator to
tell you what the state guidelines would be in your
casesometimes they actually work out okay. If
you're not happy with the guideline figure, the two
of you should put together an accurate list of your
individual incomes and expenses, as well as a
complete list of child-related expenses. Once
you've done that, you'll have to figure out a way
of dividing them fairlyand that isn't always
One particularly good way is to split the
child-related expenses according to the percentage
of your combined income that each of you earns. So
if together the two of you make $65,000 and you
bring in $40,000 of that, your share of the
expenses 62 percent. Each month, then, you would
write her a check for 62% of the budgeted amount,
minus, of course, any expenses you pay for
directly, such as school tuition and medical
Here are some things to keep in mind when you
and your ex are drafting a child support
- Limit the agreement to child support. Any
other non-child-related financial business each
of you has with the other shouldn't be included
in this arrangement.
- Be honest. Don't lie about your income or do
anything to deliberately lower it. And don't
overestimate your expenses.
- Be fair. Any agreement you and your ex come
up with will have to be approved by a
- Be understanding. If you're making a lot of
money, your ex may resent you for it.
- Neither of you can waive support completely.
You can, however, set each other's child support
payments at zero. The judge can then approve
your proposal but leave the door open for change
later on if anyone's circumstances change.
- Be flexible. Renegotiate your agreement
every year, or more often, if the situation
calls for it. Any change in your or your ex's
financial situation can have a dramatic effect
on your children.
- Allow for contingencies. If you lose your
job or get injured or incapacitated, your
support payments should go down. If you win the
lottery, they should go up.
- Try to keep payments in percentage terms
rather than flat dollar amounts. This is
especially important if your income fluctuates.
(Say, for example, you're a carpenter and you
don't get much work in the winters).
- Avoid automatic cost-of-living escalator
clauses in your agreement. Discuss actual
changes in expense and income in your annual
- Ask for a complete accounting. If you're
paying for support, you have a right to know how
it's being spent.
- Do not agree to pay more support than is
truly fair just because you think it'll help you
feel less guilty about having left your spouse
©2007, Armin Brott
* * *
It's clear that most American children suffer
too much mother and too little father. - Gloria
nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott
is the author of Blueprint
for Men's Health: A guide to a health
Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for
New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First
Dad's Guide to the Toddler
Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a
Partner and Father for
Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood
for the New York Times Magazine, The
Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of
other periodicals. He also hosts Positive
Parenting, a nationally distributed, weekly
talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland,
California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com
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