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Ohio parents' divorce agreement error creates financial mess

Ohio family courts resolve plenty of disagreements between Columbus spouses when a marriage ends. It's hard to believe that spouses willing to work out financial compromises could have legal issues, but they can. Casual arrangements for a transfer of child support, spousal support or property may fall outside the boundaries of a divorce agreement.

A Blue Ash, Ohio, couple decided to divorce last year and wanted to establish a child support agreement before entering the legal process. The husband arranged to have withdrawals made from his bank account so that support payments would remain current throughout the divorce. The final decree came through in February, followed two months later by a notice of support arrears.

Hamilton County Job and Family Services informed the ex-husband he was $2,000 behind on payments. In fact, the support had been paid all along, but not according to the provisions within the divorce settlement. The parents didn't know about or didn't read the support terms in the divorce agreement.

According to the decree, any payments not made through the family services agency were gifts, not child support. The mistake hasn't been easy to rectify. As the former couple worked to correct the error, the agency increased the husband's payments by 20 percent plus fees to make up for the "unpaid" support.

A representative of the family services agency said the parents' error can be resolved through a hearing, which he promised would be scheduled quickly. At the same time, the official defended the agency's actions, saying that it followed the divorce agreement to the letter.

Divorcing couples must live with the consequences of the legal agreements they sign. Attorneys can explain the documents so that parties are clear about the contents. However, a divorce lawyer may assume the terms are understood unless a client asks for clarification. It's better to ask questions before signing than regret not asking for an explanation later.

Source: WKRC, "Divorce Debacle: Man charged for child support already paid" Rich Jaffe, May. 20, 2014

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