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BE CAREFUL ABOUT AGREEING TO PAY MORE THAN YOUR OBLIGATION

Over the years, I have had clients who wanted to pay more than they might be obligated to pay, such as a higher amount of support. At times, the motive is to make sure their children are properly supported. At other times, the motive might be to make the other party more amenable to allowing a divorce. In either case, the agreement to pay more than state requirements can come back to haunt the person in the future when circumstances might have changed.
A party seeking a child-support modification must show a material change in circumstances arising subsequent to the original divorce decree. The factors to be considered are:
  1. increased needs of children due to advanced age and maturity;
  2. increase in expenses;
  3. inflation;
  4. relative financial condition and earning capacity of the parties;
  5. health and special medical needs of the child, both physical and psychological;
  6. health and special medical needs of the parents, both physical and psychological;
  7. necessary living expenses of the father;
  8. estimated amount of income tax each party must pay;
  9. free use of residence, furnishings and automobile; and
  10. other facts and circumstances bearing on the support as shown by the evidence.
There seems to be a sentiment in the Courts that if you make a bad deal you might get stuck with it. Most cases are settled by Agreement of the parties. If a person agrees to a certain amount of support, even if it is higher than the statutory obligation might be, that person may have a harder time obtaining a modification than if a Court had ordered the support in the first place. In Seeley v. Stafford, 840 So. 2d111, 113 (¶10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2003) , the Court said that when such an agreement has been approved by the chancellor, the Court “will enforce [the agreement] and take a dim view of efforts to modify it, just as when parties seek relief from their contractual obligations.” The Court stated further that “a non-custodial parent may agree to pay child support in an amount greater than the [statutory] guideline[s] . . . .” Id. at 114 (¶16). “We will enforce such agreements that are included in final judgments and will allow subsequent modification only upon a showing of appropriate circumstances that justify the modification.” Id.