“White tie and tails” is the most formal of looks for men. It is rarer and more formal, than black tie events like weddings and galas. At the other end of the fashion spectrum, many a Virginia man enjoys his sweatpants and tee-shirt. A Virginia man can swap formal for informal clothing in minutes; changing an informal child support agreement into something legally binding requires a bit more time.

Informally Agreeing to Child Support

When you and your children’s mother decide to move ahead and apart, you both may pride yourselves on handling it like mature adults. No need for fussy, fusty legal papers and a whole bunch of lawyers. No, the two of you will just agree to help each other out, regarding the kids.

So you agree, say, in July to provide a bit of your income to her to help with child support. Nothing in writing, mind you. Just a friendly agreement, with you sending money and she agreeing that’ll do.

But then comes back to school time, and that money won’t do anymore. She needs more. The kids need new shoes, new clothes, athletic gear, backpacks and braces.

Now she is asking you for twice what you had agreed to, but you have nothing to point to, no document saying, “Hold on, we didn’t agree to that number.”

An Informal Agreement Won’t Do

An “informal agreement” on anything involving children is a bad idea. Imagine if you had an “informal agreement” with the hospital in which your children were born — no need for a birth certificate, no need for hospital records; just take the hospital’s word for all the details. No, you need that birth certificate. You need the formalities of matching mother and child bracelets and handwashing regimens and having new Mom and baby wheeled out by a nurse.

Imagine an “informal arrangement” with your child’s school. Forget grades; never mind a grade point average, or class rank. Imagine an informal arrangement with your child’s doctor.

No, informal arrangements that affect your children’s lives are never good ideas, because you represent your children, legally and morally. You must look out for their needs (often above your own), be wary for their safety, and stand guard to protect them against all manner of issues beyond their understanding.

See You in Court!

If you had a casual arrangement to pay to your children’s mother some kind of child support, but have nothing legally binding, she has every right to take you to court. She, after all, must also look out for the best interests of her children. An informal agreement does not protect them the way a court-ordered child support agreement can.

Before it comes to that, get a family law attorney to help you draft a child support agreement you think you and your children’s mother can live with, then have your attorney arrange a meeting.

Court hearings are expensive. Court hearings are often inconvenient to both parties, and sometimes cannot be scheduled for many weeks into the future. A meeting in a lawyer’s office, though, can be put together fairly quickly.

Have your attorney draft a legal document, first, that spells out the existing structure of child support. If that is no longer working for the mother of your kids, if she genuinely needs more help, be ready to move off your original position. Negotiate, but always negotiate with an eye toward improving the life of your children.

If you cannot reach a resolution to solve the matter outside of court, you will be seeing her in court.

What to Expect in Court

As the Virginia Bar Association describes it, “a court will act in the best interests of the child in any time sharing or custody modification.”

When you and the children’s mother walk into a Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, expect no applause from the judge for your so-called “casual” or “informal” arrangement.

Whatever you two agreed to outside the courtroom, the judge is under no legal obligation to continue it. In court, without a legally binding agreement, the judge will have free reign to study both parents’ finances and determine a reasonable child support payment structure.

The judge’s job is to provide the safest, most secure and stable environment for your children, not to make your two lives easier or less expensive.

If that sounds harsh, if you feel you are being pinched between the law and your children’s mother, you do have a recourse. Get everything in writing. Legally. Properly. Formally. Protect your interests while protecting your children.

Remember, too: in the lawyer’s office, you can wear just about anything you like. Not so in the judge’s courtroom. We are not saying white tie and tails, but you do need to show due respect (to the judge, the state, and your children’s mother).

Call Our Child Support Lawyers

If you find your informal arrangements are leading to child support derangement, contact the law offices of The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or contact our offices online, to reach a child support lawyer. We can help formalize and legalize any existing agreement regarding child custody, support, and visitation.