Having children can be a blessing, but in many families, parents don’t always stay together. If you and your partner decide to separate and already have children, you will need to develop a plan to make sure they are financially and emotionally secure. Doing so, though, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to go through the court system as child support may be able to be finalized through mediation.
What is Mediation and How Can it Help Me?
Mediation is when two parties come together intending to form an agreement or agreements that will resolve conflicts. Additionally, mediation is usually a more affordable option for both parties who have a mutual interest, such as children. A mediator is a third-party who assists with this process and creates legally-binding forms that the original parties can choose to agree on or make changes to before finalizing.
Can I Use Mediation to determine Child Support?
When it comes to child support, parents can make agreements by using mediation. When using a mediator, agreements can be prepared to better fit the lifestyle and situation of the family, rather than a standard agreement that could be prepared by a court. The idea of having a tailored agreement that is specific to a family’s specific situation is appealing to many separating parents.
What Your Mediator Needs To Know
Child support mediation can be completed in a few simple steps, as long as the necessary documentation is present and the parties are willing to negotiate.
- A mediator will look at all finances.
- They will asses how the kids will be supported emotionally and physically.
- The mediator will then work with both parties to propose how the children should be supported financially.
Some of the other elements include:
- Documentation regarding finances and any additional documents the parties feel would be necessary for providing proof of income.
- This is also the time for the mediator to know about anything that makes your family unique when it would come to determining child support.
- Does your family use out-of-home child care?
- Do relatives pay for your children’s schooling? Anything financial regarding the children should be brought to the mediator’s attention so the mediator can suggest the fairest agreement possible for both parties.
How to Prepare Discussion of Child Support in Mediation
In addition to the financial documentation, you’ll want to prepare yourself emotionally for the mediation process. It can be easy to get emotional when considering the welfare of your children, however, having a plan in place for what you’ll want to discuss and say during the meeting will help make the process smoother.
When preparing for mediation, you’ll want to consider doing the following:
Write down what you want parenting with the other party to look like - would you both like 50/50 custody? Do you want the kids to be with one person one week and the other person the other week? Think about issues that are important to you, the other party, and your children when considering what your future parenting plan will be.
Agree to make decisions with the other party - this is important to do, and mean it when you talk with a mediator. They will want to see that both parties can agree on sharing the responsibilities of decision-making regarding anything involving the children, including schooling, daycare, and family time.
Don’t let your emotions take control of the conversation - by having a plan in place, you don’t have to worry about getting emotional during the mediation. You also don’t want to speak negatively about the other party — having your plan written down will help prevent the opportunity for negative talk.
When Child Support Can Not Be Determined in Mediation
While mediation is a great solution for many splitting parents, it’s not always as clear-cut for other parties. Mediation to determine child support may not be the best solution for you and the other party if:
One or both parties refuse to communicate with each other - communication is key when it comes to supporting children. However, there may be too much tension between the two parties that having lawyers for each representative may be the best route to go and therefore, using a court system versus mediation.
If one party refuses to accept the eventual outcome - if you or the other party refuses to accept that a split is on the horizon, mediation will not work. This doesn’t go to say that if both parties agree that they would like the relationship to continue, then that should be the first step of action before considering mediation. However, if all steps to save the relationship have been exhausted and one party still refuses to accept that, then court proceedings would be a better route.
If you have impactful information that a mediator may not be able to keep confidential - in Colorado, mediators are required to keep confidential information private unless the mediator has permission to give information to the other party. However, in cases of suspected abuse or other mandatory reporting requirements by the law, a mediator would not be allowed to keep that information private. If you have information regarding any type of abuse or other types of misuse, you and the other party should take your separation to court.
Meditation is a great option for amicable parties who want to stay that way, especially for the sake of their children. If you are considering mediation, Peak Mediation is a great place to start. Our experts have seen it all and will be with you throughout the entire mediation process.