If you owe child support or spousal maintenance through the Court, the potentially biggest mistake you can make is to enter an informal side agreement with the other parent or former spouse to do something other than what was ordered. Such agreements may include:
· Temporarily or permanently stopping or modifying the obligation;
· Agreeing to delay modifying the obligation through the Court; and
· Agreeing to direct payments when payments are required through the Clearinghouse.
Why is this potentially the biggest mistake you can make? Because, despite the informal agreement, the other party may march into Court and demand all of the money that would have been due under your order, plus interest. The person owed the money / obligee can often do this even years after the fact. The other party may also seek a contempt finding against you, which may result in incarceration, unless you pay a designated purge amount.
What should you do if you want to modify a support or maintenance order without a big fight? Go to mediation and work out the terms of your agreement. A mediator can also help you file the appropriate documents with the Court.
What if the modification is temporary, and you do not want to change the Order? A mediator can also help you prepare a stipulation that will provide more protection if the other party changes his/her mind and tries to collect the money.
If the State is involved in the child support matter because it has provided welfare/aid to the receiving parent, you will need to include the State in any agreement.
An important note: the Court will not modify child support retroactively earlier than the date you have both filed and given the other party formal notice of the action (absent an agreement). So, if you want to modify support, do not wait.
Child support can be modified whenever there is a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. Spousal maintenance can be modified under similar conditions, unless your agreement is non-modifiable. As with most family law (and other) issues, it is almost always much better to sit down and reach an agreement with a neutral third party (the mediator) who can help the two of you formalize agreements and obtain orders, than to litigate.
Alona M. Gottfried is a family mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.
Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC
8160 E. Butherus Dr., Suite #7
Scottsdale, AZ 85260