How Legally Binding Is a Voluntary Child Support Agreement in Pennsylvania?

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If you and your child's other parent are not married and one of you needs child support from the other, you may be able to enter into a voluntary agreement to have one parent pay the other. However, this is not the same as a child support order. Only a Pennsylvania court can order child support payments, though parents can come to an agreement about how much to pay.

Voluntary Support

While some parents in Pennsylvania come to an agreement with one another in which one parent pays the other to help raise a child, these voluntary agreements are not necessarily legally binding. Even if you come to an agreement, write it down, sign it, notarize it and take every other precaution you can think of, that doesn't mean a court will later follow the agreement if you try to get the court to force the paying spouse to live up to it.

Child Support

In Pennsylvania, only a court can issue an order of child support. The state has child support guidelines that establish the minimum amount of support a parent has to pay the other based on various factors, such as how much money each spouse makes, the needs of the children and which parent is the custodial parent. A court has a duty to impose child support orders that meet the needs of the child and can disregard any agreement made by the parents if it believes it should.

Voluntary Additional Support

Parents can enter into a voluntary agreement above that which the court requires. For example, if a Pennsylvania court orders one parent to pay the other $500 a month in child support, the paying parent can choose to pay more. The parent can, for example, pay $750 per month to the recipient parent even though she is under no obligation to do so.

Voluntary Modificaiton

If a Pennsylvania court enters a child support order, only the court can change that order. Even if the recipient parent agrees to accept less child support than the court awarded, the parents must still appear before the court and ask the court to modify the payments, regardless if the parents seek to increase or decrease the amount of support ordered.

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