Child Support Order Language and Verbal Agreements


Here’s the situation:

Was Active Duty military when I got divorced in North Carolina in 2009 and unsure of whether I was leaving the service or not. In the divorce decree, an amount of child support was ordered based on my current military earnings at the time. However, the language in the decree specifically states that this amount is subject to change based on the changed circumstances of the parties and that if the parents cannot reach an agreement on a new amount, that the issue may be submitted to a court of competent jurisdiction.

I left the military in 2010 and moved to Washington state and the primary custodian (the children’s mother) and I, verbally agreed on a new amount that was the same percentage of the income at my new job as it was while I was in the military. We followed this verbal agreement, making mutually agreed upon adjustments whenever necessary, until April of 2013 when Child Protective Services took the kids from her and placed them in my care. I have since become the legal custodian of all the children, and their mother, out of what seems to be spite, has submitted a request for back child support to the Washington Division of Child Support for the difference in the amount I was initially ordered to pay and the mutually agreed upon amount I was giving her up until the children were placed with me.

This doesn’t seem right because we had a mutual agreement and the divorce decree from North Carolina does not state that I have to go back to court or file any additional paperwork to change the amount of child support so long as we have an agreement. I would have obviously pursued a legal change if we could not come to an agreement. Right now this issue is under review by DCS and I really need to find out how North Carolina interprets the language in the divorce decree and if I am justified in my position that I should not owe any back child support. Please assist


*** Not a lawyer ***

It will likely turn out to be outside the scope of this forum (in which case Rosen has their “Rosen Online” for $199/month), but to get any useful response you’d almost certainly need to post exactly, word for word, what the existing order says regarding modification.

As far as I know, the usual situation is that once a court orders child support then you have to go back to court (at least for a consent order) to have any modification made official; even a signed and notarized agreement wouldn’t be enough. It seems to me it’s not entirely impossible that the court could have ordered differently due to the forseeable need for a change, but even then if she denies that there was a verbal agreement you don’t seem to have a lot to go on and you’d certainly need a good lawyer.


If the amount of child support is contained in a court order, you have an obligation to pay the ordered amount until a new order is entered. You should speak with an attorney where the case is pending to determine if you may be able to get some relief in court based on evidence of the mutual agreement to lower the amount.