Dynamics of Child Support Mediation for Divorcing and Unmarried Parents

When parents are divorced, they have several concerns they need to think about when it comes to maintaining thebest interests of a child. For instance, they may need to make a decision about parenting time, custody, and visitation, or whether one of the parties should be asked to pay child support to help ensure that the child in question can continue to live a comfortable life after a marriage comes to an end. Importantly, however, it’s worth noting that decisions about child support don’t have to be limited to the discussion that occurs during a divorce.

When I am acting as a mediator it is usually for married divorcing couples.  In that instance I usually find that my clients are most likely to address the concept of child support during mediation and they will make an agreement that eventually will become part of their divorce. However, non-married couples can also come to me to discuss child support through mediation.

Though the general concerns that need to be addressed when it comes to child support mediation remain the same between divorced and non-married parties, it’s worth noting that the mechanisms involved with turning an agreement about child support into an order are different when the couple isn’t engaged in a divorce or if they were never married. While during a divorce, I can submit a mediated agreement listing myself as the divorce attorney for the plaintiff and act as a neutral entity for both parties when it comes to presenting a mediated agreement to the courts since after a settlement agreement is signed, there are no remaining issues of contention between the party.  My retainer agreement with the mediating couple provides that for the purposes of shepherding the uncontested divorce through the court system because after the settlement agreement is signed, there are no remaining issues in contention between the divorcing couple.  However, if an issue arises while the divorce is pending, it is understood that I will have to withdraw from the matter and they each would need to find their own independent attorneys.  They could use their review attorneys that they used to review the settlement agreement.

It is always recommend that mediating parties use review attorneys, although people do not always take me up on that recommendation.  In the case of a non-married couple seeking mediation about child support, one party will need to petition the court, and appear in front of a judge without using me as their lawyer in order to finalize their child support agreement.  Courts always retain discretion in regards to matters concerning children, such as child custody and child support.

Addressing Child Support in Mediation

For parties seeking a divorce, mediation can be a positive form of alternative dispute resolution, particularly when children are involved, as it allows them to discuss possibilities, and come to an agreement that both sides can live with. As a divorce lawyer and child support attorney, when I offer my mediation skills to clients, I find that I’m most often dealing with issues of divorce. However, that doesn’t mean that the mediation procedure is reserved for divorcing couples alone. Non-married couples that are in need of help regarding child support concerns can still use the same strategies offered through mediation to come to a decision about how money should be from one party to another for the benefit of a child.

The difference is that when I work with a party going through a divorce, I can draft and submit uncontested papers, complete with the information necessary regarding any agreements that were made according to child support payments. Then, in most instances the Supreme Court will sign off on the child support agreement contained within the Stipulation of Settlement or Separation Agreement for the divorce without the parties having to appear in court. However, for couples that were never married, I can only draft an agreement for the parties involved, and help them draft a petition that they can take to the court which will include the petition as an exhibit.  My name, however, will not be listed as the attorney for the other side. It will be up to one of the parties involved to be the petitioner and both parties must appear in court, either as their own lawyers or using different lawyers to represent them if they don’t want to move through the process alone.

Ultimately, I find that most of the agreements that are drafted in mediation, for both divorced and non-married couples are frequently approved by the courts, so long as they’re in the best interests of the children in question. After all, the courts are required to hold themselves to the best interests’ standard when making any decisions about custody, parenting time, visitation, and even child support payments. The main difference is that the mediation package I can offer to a divorcing party will allow me to act on their behalf when taking their agreement to the courts and asking for the stipulation about child support to be made into a legal order. On the other hand, the mediation given to couples that were never married will often involve simply discussing the options available in child support, coming to agreements which can be signed and acknowledged before notaries, and drafting a petition on the behalf of those parties.

Negotiating Child Support through Mediation

For both divorcing and non-married couples, I find that mediation can be a powerful way for couples to ensure that they get some control over the future dynamics of their family. This is why I offer professional mediation as an alternative dispute resolution option. With mediation, you can make decisions that suit both you, and the other party, without leaving the decisions completely in the hands of the court.

During mediation with both divorcing, and non-married couples, I can discuss things like the New York state guidelines for child support, the factors that are proper reasons to deviate from the guideline amount received, and the documentation that needs to be considered for an order to be put into place. While any couple can benefit from this guidance, and the help that comes with drafting an agreement in mediation, only divorcing couples can then continue to use me as an attorney for the plaintiff, while I act as a neautral third-party for both of the individuals involved. Unmarried couples will need to use the exhibit created in mediation to petition for child support, after which point the court will ask the couple to appear in court, and ask to make the agreement into an order. If both sides agree, the court will usually sign off on the child support order. However, if one side changes their mind once they are in court, as in the case with a child custody agreement, the other side can use the exhibit as evidence as to what the court should order.

To learn more about negotiating child support through mediation as an unmarried or divorcing couple, read through our blogs, or contact me, Mr. Darren M. Shapiro at 516-333-6555. You can also use our online form to schedule your initial thirty-minute consultation.

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