As a conscientious parent, you likely are already aware that child support is one of the most critical issues to settle in a divorce. Even if you aren’t married, child support is what continues to link you to your child’s other parent as you lead separate lives, especially if you have young children.
Sure, you could head down to the local domestic relations office to file a claim, but they cannot give you legal advice or help you understand tax issues or what happens if you can’t pay child support or your child’s other parent isn’t paying child support.
Let’s think big picture for a second. Using mediation for child support is one of the best investments you can make – not only financially, but also for communication as you peacefully end your marriage and continue to raise your children.
What are California child support laws?
According to California Child Support Services, “Child support is the ongoing contribution of money to help pay for the living and medical expenses of a child or children until they are adults. The amount that must be paid is called the child support order.” This is a legal order for children under 18.
Understand that it is rare that child support is not needed, even when you agree. We all know how expensive raising a child can be.
How is child support calculated in CA? In other words, how much child support do I owe?
Like most states, there is a formula to calculate child support in CA. Whether you hire separate attorneys to represent each of you or make the trip to your domestic relations office yourself, there is a standard method to make the determination.
In the calculation, basic factors include 1) wages and other income for each parent and 2) custody breakdown or where your children will be spending their time.
However, before you and/or your child’s parent rush to find an online child support calculator in CA, enter your info and generate a monthly amount, you may quickly notice that not all of your child’s needs are being considered.
That’s where you could get stopped in your tracks if you are trying to do this yourselves.
On the other hand, you don’t want things to get adversarial, either.
Enter mediation for child support – the most-used solution for loving parents who want to consider all their children’s needs.
Why use mediation for child support?
The beauty in mediation is that the state-mandated calculation is only used as a starting point for negotiations. That’s right – in mediation you don’t have to stick to the numbers generated by the calculation. Remember, mediation is a negotiation.
So, for example, if you know that in 3 months, you could be laid off, or let’s say that one of you is planning to move, all of these factors can be taken into account so that the agreed-upon amount can change.
There are also tax deductions and legal ramifications so it’s important to make sure you understand all the inner workings of child support in CA.
Once you settle upon the amount and put terms into your agreement, you don’t necessarily have to go back to mediation to negotiate a new amount, unless it’s warranted. Often, you can simply head down to domestic relations in your county court and file a new child support claim.
What is worked out in mediation for child support?
Most parents considering mediation agree that they want to do what’s in their child’s best interest. What they disagree on (as do married parents) is the how. Mediation is the perfect place to be the voice for your child so their lives are minimally impacted, and you, as loving parents, continue to build a strong foundation for your child.
In addition to covering basic needs, like food, clothing, and shelter, in mediation, you can work out critical needs such as daycare/pre-school tuition, camps, after-school programs, music lessons – even college planning can be worked out in mediation. And for those divorcing over 50, college planning is one of the biggest concerns to address, as this impacts retirement savings.
How do I make sure that my child’s parent pays child support? What if they don’t pay child support?
This is often where the stories of nasty divorce could arise. One parent owes child support and doesn’t pay up, even if for completely legitimate reasons like an unexpected layoff or disability that prevents them from working.
This is where your investment in a peaceful mediation process truly pays dividends. You are much more likely to be on (at least somewhat) amicable terms and much more likely to be able to sit down and discuss like adults.
Understand that if you mediate your agreement, you will have a legally-binding agreement that is enforceable in court.
It’s still possible that a lawyer might need to be retained, but not necessarily. Because you mediated your agreement, there is a clause that states you both agree to future mediation as well.
Owing child support is where things can often spiral, and anger and resentment can absolutely contribute to rifts in relationships between parents and their children. All unintentional and unforeseen.
Mediation for child support now is your best line of defense to prevent the downward spiral of ugly, expensive legal battles. To schedule your consultation, contact me today.