Child Custody and Support: A Few Minutes Today Saves You Hours Tomorrow

Last week, as I was getting my hair cut in a local barbershop, I overheard some fellow customers discussing their child support arrangement – “We don’t have anything formal, I see him on these weekends and those weekdays, and I pay her this much in support”. Every single alarm bell went off in my head. Too many times have I had clients walk through my door with the same exact thinking – everything was going fine, nothing was formal, but everybody was getting along and they both thought it was fair. They had the perfect arrangement until it turned into a nightmare. 

“Does a Custody Arrangement Need to be in Writing?” 

Not only does a custody arrangement, more formally called a “shared parenting plan”, need to be in writing, but it also needs to be formally Ordered into place by a Court. By creating such an Order, the Court puts both parents on notice what their rights, and obligations, are to the child and to each other. This is what allows you to enforce the plan should the other parent decide to improperly withhold your child from you. At White Law Office, Co., we have decades of experience in helping to craft and navigate shared parenting plans. 

Until this Order is in place, or a Temporary Order is issued, under Ohio law, the mother, assuming the parents were not married, is presumed the sole decider for all parenting decisions, including visitation.  

“I was Paying Child Support Directly Under an Agreement, now the Enforcement Agency Wants Past Owed Payments.” 

Much like a custody agreement, a child support agreement should be in writing and should be formally Ordered by an administrative body. Under Ohio law, the support is owed to the child, and the parent doesn’t have the unilateral right to waive this support. This means that if a legal proceeding relating to support is opened, your past agreement will not matter. A legal request for support doesn’t even need to come from the other parent, the county, state, or even federal government could be the party suing you! Without an Order, you may be on the hook for years in the past, even if you were paying what you both thought were fair.  

Even more, whatever payments are made, no matter what the arrangement is, receipts should be carefully kept. This is what protects you if the amount paid is ever challenged in Court. 

“Everything was Going Well Until I got Married, I Haven’t Seen my Kid Since.” 

In my practice at White Law Office, Co., a large family event is usually the trigger for a client going from the good side of an informal arrangement to the bad. Dad or mom got married. Dad or mom got an inheritance. Dad or mom decided to move further away (or even out of state). By using an informal arrangement for your child support or custody, you are taking a gamble that the good times will continue – at some point, this gamble will become a major risk.  

By formalizing your agreement, and seeking a Court Order, you can ensure that your time with your child will not be lost because of a fight, or jealousy, or distance. 

“Won’t Formalizing this Cause Problems?” 

No. Most people like to know when they can rely on somebody to give them a break, and how much they can expect to send, or receive, in support every month. In my experience, co-parents understand that they need to work as a team, sometimes informally like with sports or acting class, but sometimes formally like with doctors and school. Custody and child support are highly complex legal matters, where, like with doctors and schools, parents need to make careful, informed decisions that they can rely upon.  

By formalizing your arrangement, and getting the relevant Court Order, both parents can understand exactly what they need to do, and what they can rely on the other parent to handle.  

How Can White Law Office, Co. Help? 

If those quotes sound familiar, you aren’t alone. Many people approach custody matters the way they do most personal relationships – with promises and handshakes. By understanding your individual, personal relationship with your co-parent and your child, White Law Office, Co. can craft a legal agreement, with the right paperwork and court filings, to preserve that relationship, while protecting your rights going forward, all at a reasonable rate. 

With over 50 years of legal experience, and offices in five counties across Ohio, White Law Office, Co. is no stranger to custody matters. We look forward to sitting down with you to discuss the options to formalize your custody and support arrangements. A few minutes of your time today can save you months of heartache and legal bills tomorrow.

Robert M. Barga

Attorney At Law

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