Wednesday, June 1, 2005
It's the odd child-support agreement that will turn on questions of contract law rather than on the best interest of the child, but the Tennessee Court of Appeals got to consider one in a recent decision.
In the case, Mr. and Mrs. Arze divorced. Mr. Arze got primary custody of their four children, but in the settlement agreement nevertheless promised to pay Mrs. Arze $2,000 a month in child support, as well as $1,000 a month in alimony. Later, when the oldest child reached 18 and became emancipated, Mr .Arze tried to reduce child support to $1,500 a month.
Ordinarily, said the court, a settlement agreement like this would be merged into the divorce decree. But Tennessee law prohibits paying child support to noncustodial parents as part of a divorce decree, so it had to be analyzed as a pure contract. Under the circumstances, the court considered that Mr. Arze must have received something of value in exchange for making such payments, so the contract was valid. Under the circumstances, it seemed reasonable to conclude that Mr .Arze had paid $500 per child, so he was entitled to reduce the figure as each child became emancipated.
Arze v. Arze, 2005 Tenn. App. LEXIS 307 (Tenn. Ct. App., May 23, 2005).