This is just a collection of stuff I learned during my years after divorce. These are very simple points usually missed during litigation that make a great difference in the following years.
1) Double check the math on the papers
Court clerks make mistakes quite often, specially doing math. For example, I voluntary agree to pay alimony for a year (even tho I didn't had to). That is 12 months. When it got written down it did said one year, it did said 12 months but then it said it was going to start on December 2009 and end on December 2010.
When this agreement is later read by the guy who drafts the "deduction order", he is going to skip all the rest and use the part that says "start on December 2009 and end on December 2010"... meaning 13 months, not 12 (counting December twice).
2) However should claim a child in the taxes needs to have the child for 7 months.
Technically, tax code says the child needs to live with you "over 50%" of the time. If the year has 365 days, that means 183 days with whoever is going to claim and 182 with the other part. Easy so far...
Now remember, custody agreements often divide the holidays using odd/even numbers. You might have the kids on holidays that fall on an even number or an odd number. Many holidays change from year to year. Because of this, even if the court document says you have 51% of the time, when IRS does the math they might realize you really had 49% on a given year. This creates a situation where one parent can't claim due to court order and the other can't claim either due to not having enough days.
To be safe, insist that whoever is claiming a child on a given year should have the child enough extra days. I recommend a month because many forms do not let you specify the amount of days or weeks, just the amount of months.
3) Include some paragraphs describing how to handle welfare and government help.
This might be the last thing on your mind. But you never know when your company is going to move to India and outsource the whole department, leaving you unemployed for quite a few months.
Some government agencies administer multiple benefits which have different application requirements. All agencies have a policy to pay benefits to one household only. Lets take the example of medicare and food stamps. Both are administered by the Department of Children and Families. Your ex might not qualify for food stamps but might qualify for medicare. Once she is receiving medicaid for the children, even if you lose your job, you can not apply for food stamps.
In the best interest of the children, the correct thing to do would be to give the benefits to the household who will benefit the most. If your ex is receiving a medicare (worth ~$200 a month) but you are eligible for both medicare *and* food stamps (worth ~$700 a month) the benefits should go to you. But if this is not written down on the custody agreement, is not gonna get done. You can still go to court and fight it, and most likely win it... but if you are unemployed, who's gonna pay the lawyer?
4) Include a clause to make monetary adjustments automatic (avoid perpetual Lipus)
Unless it is written down, if you have a loss of income, your financial obligations to your ex are not gonna get adjusted until you fight for it in court. The last thing you need during a financial downturn is more extra bills. Court costs, Lawyer costs and an ever increasing debt of unpaid child support payments. Avoid this.
Most lawyers won't tell you this can be done. Of course not, they want to keep getting paid. Demand this to be included in your agreement.
5) After School care should be a separate payment from child support
If you need After School care due to your job schedule, you should pay for this yourself. You can ask for this amount to be subtracted from your child support payments. You can't risk it to be absent at work every time your ex decides not to pay the day care bill. And you definitely don't want to pay this bill twice, once to your ex and once to the day care facility.
6) Include mandatory financial disclosure
Whenever you pay or receive child support, which is based on the income of both parents, demand that *both* parts send a copy of their taxes by certified letter to the other part. If this is not done, you might end up overpaying (or under-receiving) in the future and never even knowing. You could, of course, fight in court every couple of years to find out (child support revision). But like I mentioned before, this is time consuming and cost a lot of money in court costs and lawyer payments.
That's is all and see ya later.