In every state, parents are under the obligation to support their children. Parents may be under the impression that they have the power to determine how much and if child support is necessary; however, the state law and the courts have the final say in matters of child support.
Parents cannot agree not to pay child support. To understand why parents cannot waive the duty to pay child support, t is necessary to know how and why the state creates child support arrangements.
Whenever the support of a minor is of concern, the court can order either parent to pay any amount of child support while the child is a minor. Eliminating this support is not an option, because child support payments are actually the child’s right, not the parents. Every state calculates child support by determining what is in the best interests of the child. Because of this, parents cannot refuse to pay child support because it is not in the best interests of the child.
According to the federal Child Support Enforcement Act, each state has guidelines that calculate the amount child support to be paid, which vary depending upon several concerns. In general, factors determining child support include:
- the needs of the child such as health insurance, education, child care, and other special needs
- the income and needs of the custodial parent
- the ability of the paying parent to pay child support
- the child’s standard of living before the divorce or separation
From there, the courts may determine child support depending on factors affecting the child’s best interests, such as:
- the age and sex of the child
- the child’s emotional, social, and educational needs
- the home environments offered by each parent
- the interpersonal relationship between the child and each parent
- the effect on the child of disrupting their regular life routine
- the preference of each child, if the child is of reasonable age and maturity
Essentially, a complete waiver or release of duty to pay support by the parents usually goes against the best interest standards of the child and will not be supported by the court. The only situation where a parent can waive child support might be if a custodial parent chooses to waive child support arrears.
When the parent paying child support fails to make payments, the support will add up, creating child support arrears that need to be paid. In some circumstances, a custodial parent may agree to waive past due child support. This may happen because the custodial parent is financially capable of supporting the child without the arrears.
Another situation may be that the parent paying support has made an offer to pay a portion of the past due support in exchange for the custodial parent waiving the remaining arrearage. Waiver of arrears can be difficult to achieve, and no matter what the circumstance it cannot happen without the court’s approval.
Though parents cannot waive child support altogether, they still have a great deal of flexibility in creating a child support agreement. Parents are encouraged to take an active role in determining child support terms, however, the courts do have the ability to make the final decision in child support issues.