In re Creagh (Kansas 2019)
If parents agree to a child support arrangement in a marital settlement agreement, it will be enforced as long as the terms are clear and unambiguous. The parents divorced, and a basic child support obligation was set. In the property settlement agreement, the parents agreed that the child support would be offset to pay two of mother’s marital debt. Several years later, the father filed to terminate spousal support. The mother then filed to modify child support and to account for the child support owed because the father hadn’t increased his child support payment once her debts were paid. The trial court modified support based on the father’s increased income and ordered him to pay the arrearage owed. The father appealed. He argued that the mother should have filed for a modification once the debts were paid and that the trial court’s decision was an impermissible retroactive modification. The appellate court disagreed. It applied the rules of contract law to interpret the marital settlement agreement. The court of appeals found the father was reading terms into the contract that weren’t there and that allowing the set off to continue past the time the amounts were paid was contrary to the intent. Further, it took money away from the children.