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Can I mediate child support payments?

I am a firm believer in mediation.  Just about every dispute can be resolved through effective mediation.  Divorce mediation is no different.  Within most divorce mediations, we have a bunch of mini mediations.  For example, divorcing couples need to come to agreement on the sale of a home, child visitation schedules, division of personal property, and yes child support.

Child support is mandatory.  If you have children, you have a duty to support them. Calculation of the amount of support payments are a function of income, number of children and the percentage of time you spend with your children.  Typically, we see the non-custodial parent paying over to the custodial parent a sum certain every month.  Some clients question whether the monthly amount is enough or too much.  It is important to keep in mind that the payments are for the benefit of the children.  Not only must the payments be sufficient to provide basic support of the children, but also to allow, to the extent possible, the children to maintain the same standard of living they would have experienced, had their parents not divorced.

Each state provides child support guidelines which provide for a minimum amount of support.  But what if the amount of an order would cover the basic support of the children?  For example, assume a client has a child support obligation of $3,000 per week, for two children, until they reach the age of 18, plus an obligation to pay for 100% of the children’s college education. (the children are 4 and 6 years old) The payor felt as though the amount was excessive, because the custodial parent had a six-figure income and no mortgage payment.  Through mediation an agreement was reached, not to change the amount of support, but to provide for $1,000 per week to be invested in a 529 fund to cover college costs.  That still left $2,000 per week to provide for the children. The major impact to the payor was that in 12 year when tuition was due to a college, a significant portion (if not all) of the college expenses were funded.  This mediated agreement will save the payor well over $500,000 as the children go through college.

Similar agreements are reached which provide for a reduction of monthly support, because the payor transferred his equitable share of the marital home to the custodial parent.  Or an increase of support payments to shield a retirement account from distribution.

The beauty of mediation is that the parties can make any agreement that they believe is in their best interest.  A court will accept an agreement as to child support, if the best interests of the children are considered.

Mediation is an efficient and cost-effective way to manage a divorce. Couples save time and money in mediation.  If you are contemplating divorce, consider mediation as an alternative to litigation.

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