Court Order question


#1

My ex and I divorced about 9 years ago and had a child support and visitation agreement that we signed without going to court. About 1.5 yrs ago, my daughter wanted more time with me and her mother would not agree to it so we went to court and I was awarded joint custody. This was a long process and was just finalized with the court in April of this year. While on the stand, my ex requested the court to award primary custody, uninsured medical expenses and child support. The court order was given with joint custody, child support (which I have always paid) and no mention of medical bills. In the agreement, we shared them 50/50. My question is this, does the court order override the previous agreement that we had? It does not state that anything not mentioned in the order would still be taken out of the original agreement. I am a very involved father, have always taken care of my daughter and have also helped with extra curricular fees, which I am not required to do. So this question is not to get out of anything, I just want to make sure I understand the “legal” portion of all of this. This question also goes towards holidays. In our previous agreement, we had all the holidays covered, but the court order only specifies Christmas and Spring Break from school. I was under the impression that the court order is the legally binding document that we would use going forward, but she feels like we would still use the agreement for other items. Again, I have told her that I will continue to split some medical bills but don’t think we need to split crazy bills like a $5 prescription. We both take her to the doctor so those and small copays would even out. I feel like offering to pay or split anything over 100-200 is reasonable. This would be on my end too - if I end up with a bill for 50 I would pay the whole thing. Am I breaking the law though? I don’t want to cause an issue especially if I am required to pay them. Her lawyer was the one that wrote all the finalized court documents and nothing was asked about or brought up about medical. This would also apply to college and carrying life insurance - I know the court cannot order those items but they were in the original agreement. Again, I am going to pay for college, but just want to know if I am legally bound to the items that are not specified in the court order or if it overrides what we had prior.


#2

Even if the court has awarded a different amount of child support than was contained in the agreement, you are still contractually obligated to the contract. It’s a sticky situation because it is very unlikely that a party will go after you for the contracted amount of child support (or in your case medical expenses) since there is a new court ordered amount, but you have to realize that is a possibility. The child support guidelines are not specific about how medical expenses will be distributed between the parties. It gives the court discretion to award medical expenses as the court sees fit, and this is usually either pro rata based on income or 50/50. If the division of the expenses in your agreement is fair, it would seem beneficial to follow that as well.

This is the same with life insurance and college expenses. If you contractually obligated yourself to pay for these things in the separation agreement, you should continue to do so.

As for the custody provisions, the court order would override the separation agreement as there is no real way to enforce custody provisions in a separation agreement.