The Gettysburg Address is 272 powerful words. Declaration of Independence? 1,337 words, without the 56 signers’ autographs (1,458 with them). Our title for this piece? A scant seven words, but oh, so complex an issue! So many possible answers!
Two Ways to Order Child Support
In Virginia, child support is determined one of two ways:
- You and the child’s mother forge an agreement, in writing, called a property settlement agreement. A Virginia judge approves it.
- A Virginia court judge tells you what the child support will be, and by golly, you’d best pay it.
So, when we ask, “Can Child Support be Waived,” we are really asking, can a court order be ignored? We think you probably already know the one-word answer to that.
Code of Virginia is very clear, strict, and powerful on protecting the best interests of Virginia’s smallest citizens. The power to compel child support is codified in § 20-107.2, and despite its genteel words, the law is firm:
“the court may make such further decree as it shall deem expedient concerning the (a) custody or visitation and support of the minor children of the parties …”
So, when we say you cannot waive child support, we mean you cannot get a judge to order a waiver, nor can you ignore the judge’s lawful order to compel child support. The law protects the child, even if both parents are apparently indifferent to the financial needs of the child.
Getting Child Support Waived
That part of the answer to that simple seven-word question addressed the second method of determining child support. What about the first method? Can a property settlement agreement spell out that a parent waives child support? Will a Virginia judge sign off on it?
Within a very narrow set of boundaries, a judge will allow a child’s parent to knowingly forego child support so long as the parent provides all the essentials needed for the child:
- free and appropriate education
- medical, dental and mental health care
The law makes the parents responsible for the care of the children, which generally means a monetary transaction from the higher-earning parent to the lower-earning parent, but if the two parents agree that support will come in other ways, so be it!
You know there’s a big but coming, right?
But What About Child Support Arrears?
A property settlement agreement can get you past concerns about future child support payments.
You cannot sign away another person’s rights, and Virginia’s children have a right to what they are due. A property settlement agreement cannot include a retroactive clause that waives child support payments in arrears. So, you and the child’s mother cannot try to paper over past problems with a paragraph of absolution.
This caveat also has the effect of preventing property settlement agreements from being used as bait to entice a reluctant parent to come to a legal conclusion to a murky child custody problem.
Why Waive Child Support?
Why would a parent want to waive child support? Obviously, the paying parent may have a lot of interest in not paying, but those reasons generally overlook the needs of the child. The parent receiving payments may want to waive the support for several reasons:
- Psychologically, the clean break promotes independence and a new life for child and parent
- You may have hopes the paying parent and you will eventually reconcile, and you view the child support as an unnecessary financial obstacle to reconciliation
- An independently wealthy parent may not need the money to provide adequate support to the child
- The child can be provided for through other resources, like extended family
If you are the custodial parent of your children, think long and hard about waiving child support payments. You may not need the money how, but what if your child becomes ill, is disabled in an accident, or you lose your job?
If child support becomes a stumbling block to reaching a property settlement agreement, the other parent is sending a strong signal that something is amiss. You should fully engage with your family law attorney to find a workable solution to the obstacle.
Call The Firm For Men and Put Your Children First
Our last thought is just four words: put your children first. When working to reach an agreement, ensure your children are protected, and not just by you. Virginia expects parents to take care of their children. Child support is one way to do that, across miles or across emotional chasms caused by separation.
Let your family law attorney help you protect your rights, and your children’s rights. Turn to the experienced child support attorneys of The Firm For Men by contacting us online, or by telephoning 757-383-9184. When you call, we can help get you the answers to all your concerns about child support, arrears, and more.