In re Marriage of Clark (Kansas 2022)
Any modification to a child support order must be court approved. In 2002, the father filed for divorce. The trial court entered a temporary order requiring the father to pay support and maintenance and the mother to pay the mortgage on the marital residence. A divorce decree was entered later in 2002, but it reserved the issues of support and maintenance. In the interim, the father paid the mortgage, but didn’t pay support or maintenance. The mother requested a hearing, which the court denied. In 2020, the court entered a final journal entry. By this time, the children had emancipated. The order offset the support owed against the mortgage payments. The mother appealed. The appellate court reversed. The record didn’t support the existence of a clear agreement between the parents to substitute the mortgage payments for support and maintenance. Had the trial court held a hearing as the mother requested, it would have been able to take evidence as to the existence and terms of an agreement. On top of this, parents can’t unilaterally change a court-ordered child support obligation. Set off is an equitable remedy. The appellate court suggested the trial court might want to revisit the set off in light of the presented evidence.