Q: My ex and I are getting a divorce. We get along pretty well and we don’t want to spend a bunch of money that we could otherwise use to raise our children haggling about child support in court. Can we come up with our own agreement, rather than getting attorneys and a judge involved?
A: If you and your ex are on pretty civil terms, in most states you can write your own child support agreement. As long as the needs of the children are being met, the courts will approve pretty much anything the two of you come up with. And since no one knows your kids, their needs, and your own individual financial situations better than you and your ex, your agreement will undoubtedly be a lot more reasonable for everyone.
Before you start working on your own child support agreement, ask your attorney or mediator to tell you what the state guidelines would be in your case-sometimes they actually work out okay. If you’re not happy with the guideline figure, the two of you should put together an accurate list of your individual incomes and expenses, as well as a complete list of child-related expenses. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to figure out a way of dividing them fairly-and that isn’t always easy.
One particularly good way is to split the child-related expenses according to the percentage of your combined income that each of you earns. So if together the two of you make $65,000 and you bring in $40,000 of that, your share of the expenses 62 percent. Each month, then, you would write her a check for 62% of the budgeted amount, minus, of course, any expenses you pay for directly, such as school tuition and medical insurance.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you and your ex are drafting a child support agreement: