Orange County parents who are getting a divorce have alternatives to going before a judge to determine child support. They can conduct informal negotiations with the help of their attorneys, and they can participate in these negotiations to the degree that they feel comfortable. In some cases, attorneys may simply carry out these negotiations on behalf of their clients.
More formal negotiations may be conducted using mediation, collaborative law or arbitration. These are all forms of alternative dispute resolution, and they require participation from the parents. In the first two, the aim is to resolve conflict and reach an agreement that satisfies all parties. Arbitration involves sharing all evidence and arguments with a neutral person who then makes a decision. It is not as commonly used in family law as it is in other areas, and the decision of the arbitrator may not be final.
Once an agreement is reached, it is usually put into writing and submitted to a judge for approval. The judge reviews the agreement to ensure that it does not violate any state laws and that it has been negotiated fairly. There may be an informal session with the judge and the parents in which the judge reviews the facts to ensure both parents understand them. The agreement then becomes legally binding.
A legally binding agreement can be important in helping parents ensure that child support is paid. With this agreement in place, a parent can access child support enforcement services if the other parent does not pay support. Parents whose income changes because they have lost a job or for some other reason can apply for a child support modification if they can no longer meet their obligations.