Resolving Child Support and Coming to an Agreement

Determining the payment of child support is an important facet of a divorce case. It is also important if the parents are not married but financial support to the custodial parent is needed. In most cases, out-of-court child support is agreed upon through informal negotiations between the parents. Child support may also be resolved through use of out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceedings.

Either way, the parties will decide the payment amount, frequency of payments and duration. Even if your child support situation is resolved outside of court, you will need court approval of your agreement to ensure that it complies with state guidelines on child support.

Informal Negotiations
If at all possible, it is best for parents to work together to determine child support. The parties can negotiate with the assistance of an attorney. If they choose to work on an agreement without attorneys present, they should consult their attorneys prior to finalizing the agreement.

Alternative Process
ADR refers to processes such as mediation or collaborative law to resolve child support. This can be helpful if there are disputes on key issues. The mediation or collaborative law is generally less combative and more casual than traditional court. This approach may settle any issues more quickly. Either process also allows parents and their attorneys to play an active role in resolving child support issue than leaving the decisions up to a judge or jury.

Final Settlement
This may sound obvious but the result of the negotiations should be a written agreement that each party can refer to if future issues arise – not an oral agreement. In divorce cases, the agreement will part of the larger divorce agreement. No matter how the out-of-court settlement is reach, it is important to have a judge give final approval to insure the agreement meets state guidelines for child support. An informal court hearing may occur. This gives the judge a chance to ask questions of each party to make sure they understand the terms of the agreement. If the judge is satisfied, the judge will approve the agreement.

The agreement is a binding court order and the parents and other parties must obey the order or face legal consequences.

Stewart, Melvin & Frost – Family Law Division

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