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Rhode Island Child Support - Can You Waive it? A Rhode Islander Has a Question for the Rhode Island Divorce Coach.

EMAIL QUESTION TO RI DIVORCE COACH / ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER PEARSALL: 

I have only one question and need only one answer so I am writing in the hope that you will answer it and not require a full coaching session.  My question is this.  If my daughter stays with me in our divorce, can I waive child support so my wife doesn't pay anything?

ANSWER:  Well, you ask a bit of a loaded question here via an email Sir.  Keep in mind that we as Rhode Island Divorce and Family law lawyers need to make a living too.  I certainly have no desire to be greedy and I can tell you that like many people in Rhode Island I have my share of struggles financially yet I too have a family to care for and bills to pay.  My knowledge of the law and the advice I am able to provide from my knowledge and skill is what pays the bills.  So, please keep in mind that you are essentially asking me to do a little bit of work for you for free without knowing me or even giving me your full name in your email.  However, I will meet you half way since I believe that other people who are going through the Rhode Island family court system can benefit from the general answer to your question.

First, this is a general answer to your question.  This answer is NOT specific to you or your case, nor is this answer legal advice to you.  

Keep in mind that without asking you specific questions about your circumstances in your family, your life, your income, your living conditions, your wife, and your divorce then this answer shouldn't be relied upon by you or anyone else.  

No one should rely upon legal advice in a Rhode Island divorce unless it is given by a licensed and experienced RI family law lawyer who has had the opportunity to listen to you and to question you about your specific situation so that all factors will be taken into consideration when providing you with legal advice. 

Every case is different and that is crucial to remember!  

Alright, let's get to it then.

The general answer to your question is both YES and NO!  

You'll understand better once I explain.

  * * WHY THE ANSWER IS "YES?" * *

I don't know of any law in the Rhode Island General Laws, any Administrative Order included in the Orders of the Rhode Island Family Court, or any case that has been decided by our Rhode Island Supreme Court that strictly prohibits a Rhode Island Family Court Judge from allowing a parent who is awarded placement of a child to "waive" child support for the child.

Therefore, technically THE answer is "YES" because there is nothing that strictly prohibits it.

  * * WHY THE ANSWER IS "NO?" * *

Now let's get to the second part of your answer.  

Rhode Island Family Court and divorces have a practical side to them as well and other laws that affect the decision to this question.

Even though in a divorce the RI Family Court is concerned with helping the parties move forward amicably and equitably, there is an underlying principle that the court holds over and above this.  This principle is that the State of Rhode Island and especially the Rhode Island Family Court has a vested and all-important interest in protecting the best interests of the minor children involved in the system.

Keep in mind that the legal idea of "waiving" something usually means or implies that this will be "permanent."

Even though there is no technical prohibition strictly preventing a family court judge from allowing a placement parent to "waive" child support, the perspective of the family court generally and carried on by most family court judges is that the best interests of a minor child are served when both parents contribute financially to the support of the minor child or children.  It is easy to see how the court could find that the best interests of any minor children are not being looked after if the parent who has the child placed in their home wants to "waive" support for the child.

The Rhode Island Family Court Judges look very cautiously on any parent who does not want to receive child support from the other parent because it is not in the best interests of any child for a parent to voluntarily surrender support that the child is entitled to.  Practically speaking, can you waive child support for a child placed with you?  No, you can't because you are not acting in the best interests of the minor child and chances are better than not that the family court judge will not allow it.  Additionally, it makes you look questionable as the placement parent as to whether you are truly looking out for the best interests of any minor child who is to be placed with you.

The alternative is to ask the court to allow you to "leave child support open."  However, since that diverges from your question, I'll address the concept of leaving child support "open' for another article.

I hope this has been of help to you and that you find my forthright and common sensical approach to Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law to be helpful to understanding what it has taken many of us years to learn through case law, practice and the assistance of judges and fellow colleagues over time.

My best to all of you who go before the Rhode Island Family Court System.  If I might be able to help you either through my NEW, AFFORDABLE and IMPROVED Rhode Island Divorce & Family Law Coaching Program or by representation, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an affordable Coaching or Advice Session.  You may just be surprised how much I can help you and how much money I can save you in the challenging time you may be facing!  

Authored By:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law

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* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all attorneys in the general practice of law.  The court does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any particular field of practice.

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