Child Custody Agreements Between Parents do not Bind Divorce Courts

Parents agreed to a stipulation where the wife gave up her right to receive child support from the father and the father gave up any rights in connection with child custody over the child. The father had fallen behind on child support payments, and agreed to waive any and all rights to have “care, custody, and control of the minor child.” The mother waived any right to past, present, or future payments from the father. The stipulation was later challenged by father’s divorce lawyer, who argued that the divorce court did not have jurisdiction to approve the stipulation and thus it could not be enforced.

The divorce court stated that the primary concern and consideration must be directed towards the child’s welfare and declared the stipulation between the mother and father void. The mother’s divorce attorney filed a timely appeal. The Court decided, that based on strong policy reasons, stipulations between parents about minor children that divest the divorce court of jurisdiction (authority to make decisions) are void and will not be enforced. The Court emphasized it is a minor child’s right to have the divorce court hear and determine matters which concerns the child’s welfare, therefore parents cannot agree to deprive a divorce court of this authority. The Court explained parents have the right to contract with each other as to the control and child custody of their child, however that right is subject to the divorce court’s control. Further the divorce court does not have to award child custody in conformity with the parent’s stipulation or agreement. The appellate court agreed with father’s divorce attorney’s position and allowed the father to challenge the agreement.

In re Marriage of Goodarzirad (1986) 185 Cal. App 3d 1020