Many people believe they can change a Court Order by reaching an agreement with the other side. However, Court Orders always trump agreements. Often this issue comes up in divorce or support cases. A Judge may have set child support by Court Order and over time Mom and Dad have agreed on a new monthly figure for support. Perhaps the party paying support (let’s call him “Dad”) lost his high paying job and is now making only one-third of what he was making when the support obligation was set by the Court. The parties agree to reduce support payments let’s say from $1000 per month to $500 per month. A couple of years pass and then Mom is upset because she wants to leave the area with her new husband, and Dad is trying to keep her from taking the children with her. Mom decides to go to her lawyer who tells her that despite the fact that she and her former partner have a written agreement to the contrary, Dad still owes her another $12,000 in child support. He advises her to file a “show cause” against him to make him pay the $12,000.
This in not an uncommon scenario. What many people do not realize is that you cannot change a Court Order simply by reaching an agreement, even one that is in writing. That Order setting support needs to be modified by another Court Order. The failure to take that step has caused many a person to suffer severe anguish and even loss of freedom in some cases. To protect yourself, if you are the one benefiting from the change, you need to not only reach an agreement in writing, you need to follow that written agreement up with an Order allowing for the change. As the saying goes, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.