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Can I get a suspension of child support during vacations when my child is with me?

UPDATED: February 3, 2012

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A suspension of child support from one month to the next is highly unlikely. Most child support orders are standardized, meaning a set amount is due each month. One of the reasons for a standardized order is to facilitate a consistent set of payments so that one lump sum payment does not have to be made each year. Basically, the standardized order allows obligors to spread out their payments. But in return for this flexibility, courts generally will not allow child support obligors to "turn on" and "turn off" payments depending on the time of year or current custodial situation.

A second reason for standardized child support orders is to make wage garnishment more easily fit employer compensation programs. Many courts require that child support obligations be directly withheld from an obligor's regular paycheck. Administration of a child support order would be extremely difficult if the amount changed at different times of the year. As such, most courts will not suspend child support obligations during the summer months.

Despite the policy in favor of a consistent support obligation, courts will still honor reasonable agreements made between the parents. You and your ex-spouse can agree to suspend or reduce the amount of child support due during vacation periods when the children are with the non-custodial parent for extended periods of time. If you are fortunate enough to work out a suspension agreement like this with your ex-spouse, make sure that the language makes its way into the final support decree or modification thereof. Even if you and your ex-spouse informally agree to waive the child support obligation, the written final decree will control in court. Failure to get the suspension agreement reduced to writing and into the final decree could result in a surprise motion for enforcement several months down the road.

If you simply cannot work out an agreement and you are financially strapped by your current child support obligation, your best option may be to petition the court for a modification of your child support obligation. Not only will the modification help you through the summer vacation months when your household expenses increase, but it would then continue throughout the rest of the year.

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