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What must be included in a child support agreement?

In California, child support agreements can be either court-ordered or mutually agreed upon between parties. In either case, a court must approve the amount. While the state-mandated child support guidelines can bypass a court appearance, parties seeking an agreement that differs from those guidelines must adhere to specific requirements.

Each party must fully understand the rights and guideline amounts for child support. Parties should neither receive or have applied for public assistance. If so, the pertinent child support agency must approve and sign off on the agreement, particularly when enforcing the order for child support. Neither party should act under duress nor coercion, agreeing that the determined amount both meets the child's needs and is in the child's best interest.

After the parties reach an agreement, the settled amount may be submitted to the court. Parents should factor in various expenses, including health and child care as well as school-related and travel expenses. The document should express if payments will be taken from wages, made directly to another parent or given to stipulated providers. The document should contain an example of the guideline amount even if the settled amount is different.

The document must include an applicable case number and be signed by both parties. If a child support agency is part of the process, a representative agent must also sign the agreement. Once the court approves the agreement, the original document should be filed with the court. All pertinent parties should keep a copy of the agreement.

Individuals with questions about child support agreements may benefit from speaking with a family law attorney. While the information in this blog is not intended as legal advice, an attorney might be able to help a parent understand his or her rights when signing a child support agreement.

Source: The Judicial Branch of California, "Child Support", November 12, 2014

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