Must We Follow State Child Support Guidelines? We Like Our Plan!


One Question, Three Lawyers

Dear Splitopia: Do we have to follow the child support guidelines in our state?  We have a plan we like, and we don’t want the state to get involved. 

Our Panel Says:

Michael Stutman, family lawyer, New York CityMost states provide for parties to “opt out” of their state’s child support formula regime, but they also usually require a judge to approve whatever plan you are going to make.  The judge is charged with the responsibility of making sure your child/children are receiving an appropriate amount of support, given your and your spouse’s circumstances. As a result, many judges will scrutinize your financial disclosure before looking at your support plan.


Janice Green, family lawyer, Austin, TX:  Be prepared to respond to questions from the judge about why you believe your plan is in the best interests of your children.  While agreements between parents are encouraged, most judges want to be sure both parents understand the guidelines and have good reasons not to follow them.



Naomi Cahn, law professor, George Washington University:  Because of the state’s strong interest in child support, a court can always examine any child support agreement you make, so you should be prepared to justify any deviation from the guidelines.





About our Panel:

Michael Stutman has more than 30 years of family law experience, handling both settlements and court trials.  He is immediate past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, New York Chapter. He is also a Fellow of the Academy and serves on its National Board of Governors.  Stutman is also the author of Divorce in New York: The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What to Expect (Addicus, 2013). You can contact him at:

Janice L. Green is a family law attorney who has been practicing in Austin, Texas, for 35 years.  She is the author of Divorce After 50: Your Guide to the Unique Legal & Financial Challenges (NOLO, 2013). She is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and has been named to Best Lawyers in America, and as a Texas Monthly Super Lawyer. For the past 10 years, she’s focused exclusively on collaborative divorce. Find more at:

Naomi Cahn is the Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School. She is the co-author, along with law professor June Carbone, of Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture (Oxford University Press, 2010). She is also the author of the leading family law textbook Contemporary Family Law. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New Yorker. Find more at:


And now, some legalese:

The information in this blog post is provided for general purposes only.  It may not reflect the current law in your county and doesn’t replace legal advice.  This post is not intended to be a substitute for legal counsel. No attorney-client relationship has been established by reading the post.