A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on

That’s a lesson Rep. Joe Walsh, Republican of Illinois, is now learning the hard way:

One of the child support problems we see between unmarried parents is the informal child support agreement. That is, a consensual arrangement in which one parent assures the other that he will provide a certain amount of support every month, but in complete absence of a child support order from the Court. These informal arrangements are a temporary fix at best, and only work so long as the parents cooperate. As soon as there is a rift in the parents’ relationship, the agreement falls apart. When there is no court order, there can be no contempt of court enforcement for nonpayment of child support.

[…]

Congressman Joe Walsh represents the 8th District of Illinois. He is a freshman, having assumed office in January 2011 after defeating the three-term incumbent, Melissa Bean. In the realm of child support enforcement, however, Congressman Walsh underestimated the importance of strict compliance with family court orders.

The ex-wife in this case, Laura Walsh, is an attorney for the Eli Lilly Credit Union. She earned $139,796 in 2008 and $122,771 in 2009. In December 2010, Laura filed a child support enforcement action alleging that her children’s father had stopped paying support in March 2008, having convinced her that he was cash-strapped. She’s is now seeking $117,000 in back child support with interest.

Verbal Consensual Child Support Modification. Congressman Walsh recently objected to Laura’s claim for back support, arguing that the couple had a “verbal agreement” that he would stop paying her child support. He claims they arrived at this mutual arrangement because they were both exhausted with court challenges over the children. Because, in 2008, Laura was making good money and Joe was making quite a bit less than she. And because the children were spending more of their time with Joe than with Laura.

Joe alleged their verbal agreement was in effect between March 2008 and December 2010 and that he relied in good faith on that agreement, to his detriment. (This is an equitable estoppel argument intended to expand Joe’s defense to nonsupport.) Under their informally modified child support agreement, they evenly split the children’s expenses, and neither paid the other child support. All of this took place while Joe was under an existing child support order to pay $2,135 per month.

To shed any inference that he was a dead-beat dad, Joe claims he paid extra child support between November 2005 and June 2007. His generosity is duly noted, but additional funds provided by a parent for the children is a gift, it does not justify nonpayment of support at a later date.

Even if Walsh is telling the truth, he has to prove it in court – and he’s handed the lefty blogosphere a gift.  In any event, his $174,000.00 annual Congressman’s salary means there’s no excuse not to pay up now.

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