Q: I have 4 years remaining on my child support obligation. I owe no back support and the amount due over the next 4 years will be about 30,000. If I come into a sum of money, can I pay the 30K in a lump sum to the court to be disbursed to the mother and have my obligation for child support cease?
A: This is a great question. The short answer is no. You cannot end your obligation until the child support order has terminated due to your child’s emancipation or your rights have been terminated and the child has been adopted. Lump sum payments are great in theory but are not generally great options.
Child support orders are always modifiable, so even if you paid your ex the $30,000 now, that would not prevent her from seeking to modify the order at a later time. If you do pay via lump sum and your ex seeks modification, the Court will look at your lump sum agreement to determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to modify the order or not. One thing to consider is your future financial situation.
If you suddenly are out of work, become disabled, or reduce your ability to earn income you have the option of seeking a child support modification due to the substantial and continuing change in circumstances. If you have already paid a lump sum it may negate your ability to effectively modify down and also reduce the money that you have readily available if the unforeseen happens.
I would recommend paying your obligation for the next four (4) years via income withholding order. There is nothing that prevents you from paying in a lump sum payment but there is also not much of a benefit to doing so. If you are going to do this you would need a written agreement signed by both parties so there is no question that the lump sum payment is being made in advance and that this payment is not a gift.
The agreement should specifically show what the current payments are and the months remaining on the order as well as the total owed and paid. This way it is unambiguous that you are simply paying in advance for each monthly payment. This may seem like overkill but when you are dealing with tens of thousands of dollars you need to make sure that everyone, including the Court and clearinghouse are on the same page.
You would also need to make the payment directly to the clearinghouse or it may be deemed a gift. Without a record of payments you may face enforcement actions if the state is involved and could even have your tax return intercepted.
Remember that if the state is involved with your case i.e. it is a IV-D case, you will need to include the state on any agreement related to your order. It is highly unlikely that the state would agree to a lump sum agreement. Generally speaking lump sum payments are best used to pay off child support debts rather than current/advanced payments.