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‘Parenting agreement’ triggered support change

A couple’s arbitrated custody decision under their “Parenting Agreement” did not let a father immediately adjust support when their daughter moved in with him.

The divorcing parties signed a “Parenting Agreement” that said they would equally share custody of their two children, and would resolve outstanding issues through arbitration.

Under the terms of the resulting arbitration decision, support could be modified for a “material change in the Parenting Agreement.” If a party petitioned a court to determine support, the parties were to “state in writing the amount of support” the party deemed appropriate. The parent with the number most different than the support number set by the court had to pay attorney’s fees.

In 2008, the parties’ daughter moved in with the father full-time. The trial court awarded the father physical and legal custody. Later, the father moved to modify child support based on the residence change. But the trial court said that for support purposes, the daughter’s residence did not change until the father won legal custody. It calculated support for 2008 based on the shared custody of both children for the entire year. The court said the father should bear the cost of the proceeding; the mother appeared pro se.

On appeal, the father argued support should have changed when the daughter’s residence changed. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s interpretation of the Agreement.

The trial court couldn’t change child support any earlier than the date when the father filed his motion to modify child support, because the Agreement pegged a support change to a “material change in the parenting agreement,” wrote Judge Larry G. Elder. The parties did not change the Agreement until April 27, 2009, when the trial court entered a consent order changing the daughter’s custody to the father.

Neither party was eligible for attorney’s fees on appeal, the appellate court said today in Voltz v. Voltz.

- Deborah Elkins

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