November 7, 2011

New Case Law – Agreement Not To Modify Child Support Does Not Violate Law or Public Policy

On October 26, 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided Matar and Harake.

In this case, the parties signed a stipulated general judgment which awarded child support to Mother.  The judgment included a provision preventing either party from modifying child support in the future based on changes in income or any other change of circumstances, such as a change in parenting time.  Four years later, Father attempted to modify his child support obligation based on a decrease in his income, and the trial court upheld the agreement not to modify.  Father argued that the provision violated public policy because it deprived the state of the right to set child support according to the support guidelines and deprived the court of its authority to modify child support.  The Court of Appeals found the agreement did not take away the court’s authority to modify child support, but rather was an agreement between the parties waiving their right to seek modification.  The Court found that such waiver provisions are enforceable, unless the circumstances of a particular case make enforcement of the agreement contrary to public policy.  The Court left the open the possibility that it would not enforce such an agreement if doing so would negatively impact the children in a particular case.

Parties to a divorce should generally avoid provisions which limit their ability to seek future modifications which would be allowed under Oregon law.

The entire opinion can be found here.