Side Deals and Divorce Decrees

Category: Family Law

It is not uncommon for divorced spouses to eventually reach a point where they communicate effectively and have some level of trust, especially when children are involved.  Generally, emotions quell over time and the parties’ desire to involve lawyers or judges in their day-to-day co-parenting fades.

For parents with decrees involving payment of child support, there can be temptation to reach informal agreements regarding a reduction of monthly payments. Parties in these situations need to be especially cautious, as side deals can frequently come back to haunt even well-intentioned individuals.

Arizona child support judgments are tracked through a Clearinghouse and a record is kept of each and every payment. If parties reach an informal or verbal agreement, without having the agreement approved by a Judge, the Clearinghouse will have no knowledge of the arrangement. The Clearinghouse will begin making a record of what it perceives as missed or partial payments, and interest will continue to accrue.  Years or even decades later, parties are frequently shocked to learn the Clearinghouse shows an enormous balance due.  The spouse who informally agreed to lower monthly child support may rethink their position once they learn the Clearinghouse shows they are owed tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in “unpaid” support.  Learning that you effectively owe your ex a house decades after your divorce is a terrible prospect, but one that can be avoided.

In certain limited circumstances clients have been able to avoid liability on a Clearinghouse-created obligation altogether.  The cheaper and better way to avoid a situation like the once described above would be to contact an attorney at the time the modification is initially agreed to.

On a related note, high school GRADUATION season is right around the corner, and many parents are legally entitled to have their child support obligation reduced (in the case of multiple children) or eliminated.  If you or someone you know is paying child support for a child who is about to graduate, please contact attorney Michael Girgenti at (480) 733-6800 or