One of the things I have learned over the years is that I cannot be a Jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-none. In today’s ever-changing world, we need to have connections with professionals in other disciplines and specialties. This is especially true working in the divorce area.
In the past, it was the attorney’s job to do everything. Today divorcing couples are starting to pool the expertise they need into teams of outside experts. In addition to attorneys, they are using financial specialists, mental health professionals, and child specialists. I think it is important that we divorce professionals do the same thing and have our own team of specialists.
In Georgia, we have many questions about what parents can and cannot do with certain provisions in their parenting plan. As financial neutrals and mediators, we need to be able to give information. We are not giving advice, but giving information, when asked. There has been a lot of discussion in Georgia about self-executing modifications. The article below is by Melody Richardson, Managing Member of Richardson Bloom & Lines LLC, where she focuses primarily on complex and high-asset matrimonial matters.
SELF-EXECUTING MODIFICATIONS: SIX THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
Twelve years after the Supreme Court of Georgia first held that self-executing change of custody provisions are not permissible, many questions still exist as to what is and is not permissible when it comes to changes in parenting plans that do not require court intervention. When will the court uphold the provision and when will the court hold the provision to be invalid and unenforceable? When can the parents agree to a modification of child support without court intervention?
Here are six things you need to know when drafting the parenting plan and child support provisions of your settlement agreement.
- A planned event that will occur at a readily identifiable time, such as a child beginning kindergarten, which is used as a trigger for a change in parenting time, is a permissible self-executing provision.
- An 18-month change in custody at the end of which time primary custody would return to the other parent is not valid.
- A parent’s visitation may not be changed automatically based on a future event, including the determination of a therapist, without any additional judicial scrutiny. But see number one above, that allows the change to be tied to a readily identifiable time and event.
- A parenting plan that alternates primary custody annually and automatically is a self-executing provision for modification of custody and is not permissible or valid.
- Child support may only be modified prospectively.
- An agreement may contain self-executing provisions for the modification of child support if the modified child support amount falls within the Georgia Child Support Guidelines.
Robert D. Bordett CFP, CDFA
Collaborative Practice and Mediation Services