Orally Modifying Your Timesharing/Custody Arrangement Can Be Dangerous

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great fathers that have found themselves in quite the child support predicament.  Whether the parties started their venture into the court system by way of dissolving a marriage or establishing paternity and timesharing (visitation), they have an unfortunate situation in common . . . they modified the timesharing/visitation order orally with the child(ren)’s mother.

For some of these dads it has now been a couple years since the child(ren) started living with them more.  While mom and dad agreed to change the timesharing, there was never an agreement reached orally or in writing regarding the child support amount.

What does this mean for these men?  In some cases, there have been years of contempt motions brought by either the Department of Revenue, or by the child’s mother, alleging that the Father is not supporting the children and violating the court order as it relates to child support.  Not knowing the law, and presuming logic is on their side, these men have walked into the court room unrepresented to be found in contempt again and again, back child support mounting, and the risk of large purge payments and jail looming over their heads.

It is not enough to tell the judge, “my child has been living with me; I shouldn’t have to pay under that order.”  Back child support will continue to accrue until the child support order is changed.  It will only be changed retroactive to the date of filing a Petition for Modification, except in extraordinary circumstances.  If you wait a year, two years, three years, before making the request for a change in child support, you will still be responsible for any arrears that you incurred during that time.

If you have agreed to modify the court’s order in any way, it is important to memorialize it in writing, and to formalize the modification with the Court so that everyone is on the same page as to their rights, responsibilities, and support obligations.