California parents who have minor children and who are ending their marriage might wonder if there is an alternative to going to court and having a judge make a decision about child support. There are a number of ways that parents may be able to make this decision instead. One option is for them to negotiate informally, with or without the help of their respective lawyers.
Some alternative dispute resolution processes allow parents to become involved in settling differences and reaching a solution. In mediation and collaborative law, parents may fully participate in a conflict resolution process that seeks to avoid the adversarial approach of litigation and instead focuses on reaching a compromise that satisfies both parties. Arbitration is less common in family law, but when it is used, it involves a third party listening to both sides and making a decision.
Whatever the process, the end result should be a written agreement. This agreement can then be submitted to a judge who will review it for adherence to state child support guidelines. The judge may have a hearing to ensure that both parents understand the contents of the agreement, and it then becomes a court order.
A child support decision may take a number of factors under consideration including the income of the parents, the standard of living that the child enjoyed before the divorce and costs such as day care expenses and extracurricular activities. Parents might want to consider how they will pay for a child's college education and whether some form of support will continue during that time.