Child support stipulation agreements: How do they work?
Determining child support obligations is often one of the more difficult aspects of divorce. Lawsuits, lawyers, and the court system can prolong the process and increases expenses for both parties.
However, in some instances, the courts can be skipped almost entirely. If the parties are able to agree to terms, and meet certain criteria, they can settle the matter more efficiently and with less involvement from a judge. Their agreement is formalized in what’s known as a child support stipulation agreement.
The basics of a stipulation
Although it may sound like legalese, these stipulation agreements are fairly straightforward. It’s essentially a contract between the parents that creates child support obligations. The amount and method of payment are established, as are other rights and obligations.
In addition to being quicker and easier, these agreements potentially allow the parties to circumvent certain court requirements. For example, California requires that child support obligations to be established using pre-determined guidelines. However, it does allow child stipulation agreements to stray from these guidelines, allowing the parties to set obligations as high or as low as they want–subject to judicial approval.
Other criteria that may be required
California courts often require stipulation agreements to meet certain criteria in order to be enforceable. For example, the state may prevent a party receiving public assistance – such as TANF – from signing a child support agreement. Additionally, courts may impose the same basic requirements of goodwill and freedom of contract that govern all other legal agreements.
Although child stipulation agreements spare parties the hassle of court, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. They create important rights and obligations that are legally enforceable. A failure to pay close attention to the wording can have devastating consequences. As with any other legal document, a child support agreement should be drafted with the assistance of a lawyer that specializes in family law.