Consent or No Consent, That is the Question?
I cannot keep count of the number of clients who have sat in my office asking if there is any way I could help void or modify a consent order for custody or child support. They all say the same thing, “I didn’t feel like I could say no” or “I just wanted to get out of there.” Well, I am here to tell you that you can say no.
Here are the top four reasons why you should consider saying no to a consent agreement:
- You should say no because the negotiated terms of the agreement will be reduced to writing and merged into the court’s order. One would think if he/she withdraws their consent the order could be modified, but that’s not the case. In a custody or child support case, a court order may only be modified if the court finds there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances.
- You should say no if there are specific issues you want the judge to know and to document those issues for the record. Most times when parties enter into an agreement, the judge is provided a copy of the prepared agreement so it can be read on the record and then signed. The process doesn’t allow for a lot of discussions and usually only takes a few minutes. What most people don’t realize is that not speaking up could hurt them later, should they want to modify the order based on issues which existed at the time the agreement was made.
- You should say no if the suggested terms are not aligned with your desired outcome. Entering into a custody agreement with a visitation schedule or drop-off and pick-up times that are not compatible with your schedule could be used against you later if you are habitually late or a no-show. If the agreement does not include the amount of quality time with your child as you would like or requires supervised visitation and there isn’t a substantive reason for restricted access to your child, chances are the agreement is not fair and reasonable.
- You should say no and excuse yourself back to the courtroom if you feel pressured to agree to something which makes you feel uncomfortable. That feeling is probably your gut telling you “don’t do it.”. We all have an inner voice which seems to foresee all of the problems we will face because of the decision we are contemplating at the time. And if there is any time to listen to that little voice, this would be the time.
Consent agreements between parents are ideal as I believe most judges would prefer to have parents work together to decide what is best for their children. However, both parents should be confident that they have been heard and the decision to enter into an agreement should be voluntary.
If this isn’t the case speak up and request a trial.