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Child support can be negotiated in a divorce settlement agreement

by | Feb 10, 2017 | Child Support, Contempt, Firm News

It is a common question that occurs in Family Courts all across the county.  When does the obligation to pay child support end.  In the new Georgia Supreme Court Family Law case the court reviewed that issue.  The parties entered into a divorce settlement agreement determining the terms of the child support obligation of the Father.  It stated that he would continue to pay the child support of the minor child while she was in high school.  This type of language agreeming to terms of Child support is an acceptable form of settlement for Divorce proceedings.  It is not void unless it violates public policy such as terminating someones obligation to pay child support.

In this Georgia case there would be certain conditions to be met in order that father continue to pay child support for his child. Normally child support ends upon the child either graduating high school and if they continue to be in high school upon turning 19.  If they graduated high school and have not turned 18 then the child support obligation will terminate when child turns 18.  However, in this Georgia case the wife argued that the husband was in contempt because the adult daughter was still in high school

The duty of support imposed by Section 3901 explains the law in California which the Courts use to determine the termination of the obligation to pay child support. The law states it will terminate to an unmarried child who has attained the age of 18 years, is a full-time high school student, and who is not self-supporting, until the time the child completes the 12th grade or attains the age of 19 years, whichever occurs first.

The Georgia Court has a similar interpretation of the termination of child support however, the Court in Abritton v Kropp, also had to deal with an underlying divorce agreement.  The Court initially found that the father had to continue to pay for his 18 year old daughter during her high school contrary to their agreement.  The agreement stated she must be a full time high school student which she wasnt.  However, the Supreme Court of Georgia overturned the lower appeal Court and held that the father did not have to pay for his child who was going to High School part time and was now 18.

This Court case demonstrates how a divorce settlement agreement can hold up in regards to child support.  The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the letter of the law.  It should be noted that the divorce decree did not really violate public policy in the issue of contracted away child support. The child had turned 18 and was still attending high school however, she was in her fifth year of high school.  In addition, she was not going full time but part time.  So the debate about termination of child support can be disputed based on certain circumstances and especially when the child is already 18 and should have already graduated high school.  California probably would have held the same reasoning based on these circumstances.