Legal separation and divorce can be a stressful time for both parents, not to mention any children involved. Depending on the situation, arrangements for the children, such as child support or visitation arrangement, may turn sour.
In the event of complete non-agreement, it is often necessary to apply to court so as to enforce an order. However, there are instances where parents are able to come to a mutual agreement on child support costs they are both happy to comply with. In this case, it can be possible to arrange a non-court ordered child support agreement.
Once discussions commence regarding child support, if parents find that they are able to agree on a child support amount, how often this will be paid and for what amount of time, then the agreement can be finalized outside the court in both informal and formal ways.
Informal Non-Court Ordered Child Support Agreement
If trust is present and the situation permits, an informal agreement may be made whereby both parties agree on the child support arrangement. This type of informal arrangements can be made solely by the couple themselves without any other involvement.
However, it is highly advisable to translate any decisions into a written and signed document so as to avoid any misunderstandings or issues in the future. Although the situation may be amicable now, things can change, and having a written and signed agreement will make enforcement simpler.
Although still informal, if you are unsure of or nervous about any aspect of the process, or you feel you need some additional support, it can be possible to involve a family lawyer in your informal agreement. You may agree in theory with the offering from the other parent but would feel more confident with input from a professional, such as a family lawyer.
Legal professionals can guide and advise you throughout the process from the start; or if you are happy to work together for the majority of time, legal professionals can be pulled in just at the end to finalize any agreement to be put in place. As with any situation like this, specific case details will vary from couple to couple and a legal professional will be best placed to advise on your specific situation should you need guidance in order to agree on your child support amount.
Advice can range from preparing the proper documentation, understanding how to calculate a fair amount, understanding the specific rules that apply in your state, and any legal rights you should consider.
Formal Non-Court Ordered Child Support Agreement
In the event that an informal agreement is unable to be reached, the alternative option would be to go down the more formal route. This process is known as ADR, or Alternative Dispute Resolution.
ADR can be used as a method of resolving disputes both with and without the involvement of court. Out-of-court Alternative Dispute Resolution involves collaborating with family law professionals as well as mediation services in order to come to an agreement on any aspects of the child support agreement that cannot be decided upon. Alternative Dispute Resolution can be a useful process for those who are willing to work together to iron out any smaller issues that may come up, in order to prevent the agreement having to go through a court settlement.
Aside from being less formal than an official court settlement, using Alternative Dispute Resolution also tends to lean towards a quicker resolution than via official court proceedings. It is also important to remember that while an agreement remains away from court, parents still hold some form of control over any decisions made. In the event that a mutual decision cannot be reached out of court, the decision will inevitably be handed over for a judge to decide on the fate of the children and the amount of child support to be paid.
As with the more informal route, any agreements come under the formal ADR process should be written down in physical format and signed to show that both parties agree to the content. This not only provides proof that an agreement was reached, but makes things easier to enforce in the future should anything be brought into dispute.
Court Approval of Child Support Agreement
Whichever route you choose to pursue, it is often the case that a judge will look over the documented agreement to ensure it complies with state rules. This includes whether the agreement is in the best interest of the children, whether state guidelines on parental income have been considered, and whether negotiations have been carried out fairly. When such agreements have been made outside of court, amicably between both parents, it is often approved by the judge.
If an agreement is reached and approved, it must be adhered to by both parties. However, circumstances do change, and if you are unable to keep to your end of the deal due to some reason, it can be possible to change your child support agreement in some circumstances.
If both parties are able to agree on changes amicably then using the same informal process is possible, as described previously, in order to amend your agreement. Again, if there are slight changes that both parties are unable to agree on, mediation services can be sought.
What to do if You’re Going Through a Divorce/Separation
Going through a divorce can be a turbulent time for everybody involved. If you feel you can resolve a child support agreement yourself, this is of course always the preferred route as long as things are written down and approved. However, if there are some elements that you are unable to be agreed upon, you better seek help before things get out of hand. Get in touch with a family law attorney to discuss your options. Just because you are involving a family law specialist does not mean that you have to go through the court procedure and often a non-court ordered child support agreement can be reached that all are happy with.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.