4 REASONS TO MEDIATE – NOT LITIGATE – YOUR CHILD SUPPORT AGREEMENT IN 2017

Child Support in 2017: What’s the Deal?

No matter your political perspective, you probably realize that 2017 is going to be a year of “different”. Less corporate restrictions. More individual restrictions on things like travel and taxes. Rising school loan interest. Reducing the benefits of home ownership. Growth of ‘Big Brother’ looming on the horizon. More division between racial and ethnic groups. Increased punitive actions for non-custodial parents who fall behind in child support payments (more about that later). Although no one has a crystal ball and we are all making educated guesses based on what we see and read, the overall climate in America is about to be, uh, a little, uh, tougher. Some might call it, “every man/woman for him/herself”. 

2017 is not the year to willingly place yourself – or the other co-parent – in a position to lose his or her little piece of the American dream. 2017 is not the year to cause the other co-parent to lose a job, or a home, or his/her freedom.**I'm excited to share that the recent federal rule requiring states to set reasonable child support amounts so parents are not saddled with unreasonable or excessive support expectations is still in place under the new administration.** But mediation is still the best way to go. For so many reasons!

Love and Child Support: Why Do You Care?

Before we look at the information you want to hold fast when entering the wild world of child support, it’s important that you remember the 3 Co-Parenting Principles; sort of like the 10 Commandments but there aren’t as many.

PRINCIPLE #1 – It’s always about the child. It is never about Mom or Dad. It is never about the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent. It is always about the child(ren). 

PRINCIPLE #2 – Make every decision based on love. Closely related to Principle #1, you should lean on the love you have for your child, and – here comes the hard part – you should lean on the love you have for the other parent. This principle is called #TOPLove in social media-speak. That Other Parent Love. Not romantic. You're part of my child's family love.

PRINCIPLE #3 – Think “what would I, if I were married, do”. Grammatically incorrect, but critical. If you were married and part of a two-parent unit, what decision would you make about the child you share? Then do that, or get darned close!

What Goes into Child Support Decisions?

For starters, child support – unwed, single, divorced, or separating - payer or receiver, child support tends to be something you think about. Depending on your personal financial situation, it may be a greater or lesser issue, but I haven’t met many unwed parents who don’t ever think about child support.

But what goes into the final decision when child support is granted?

EVERY CHILD SUPPORT CASE IS DIFFERENT because EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.

Speaking broadly, very broadly, child support determination looks at some combination of) the following:

            Parental income

            Health care coverage

            Supplemental health costs, i.e. therapy, counseling, mental health services

            Child care costs

            Before/After care costs

            Private school or related education costs

            Transportation costs (including monies needed for parental visits and vacations)

And that’s just the beginning! For each unique child, with a unique set of parents with their own income, ideas and values, expectations, needs…child support is different. 

So...the Four Reasons to Mediate

We’ve looked at the possibilities for the coming year, and we’ve reviewed the Co-Parenting Principles.

So how do you create a support agreement that works best for the child, doesn’t punish either parent, and avoid getting caught up in court-ordered child support system? Why do you want to?

1.      Before you go to an attorney, remember that the “win/lose” model – unlike mediation – will establish a pattern of win or lose in your co-parenting relationship for years. Like athletes, attorneys are taught to win. Like athletes, sometimes they lose. But don’t think for a minute that they plan to lose, or that they enjoy losing. Based on the principles we just reviewed – remember them – it ain’t about winning or losing. It’s about the best solution for your children, decided from a place of love. Mediators are taught to help their clients develop the best possible solution that works for them. A good mediator creates a positive process, keeps clients on track, and supports them as they work it out. Together. Mediators win when both parties feel they’ve won.

2.      Before you go to an attorney, remember that with rare exception, litigation will cost you more money. Although you (or your mediator, or coach, or counselor) will probably file your support agreement through an attorney, you will save money by bringing an already-accepted agreement to an attorney. Do you want to cover college tuition for your children, or for your attorney’s children?

3.      Attorneys play to win. In that race to win, more attorneys than most will recommend linking the visitation and support issues – a definite no-no! In many cases, that includes pulling your children into the child support conversation – another no-no! Although more inclusive terms are now used, such as parental involvement, residential schedules, and monetary distribution, it doesn’t change the fact that children often become a part of a conversation in which they have no place. When it comes to money, principled mediators or coaches work with parents. Only parents.

4.      And if everything I’ve shared falls on deaf ears, and you want to go to an attorney who supports mediation (and they are growing in number), or your cousin is an attorney and they promised to ‘hook you up’, please ask the following question: what is their pre-trial settlement rate? This will tell you if they work hard to reach an agreement before going to court, involving experts, children, and other witnesses and otherwise running up that clock. And the bill.

What’s Next?

KidsNeed2 is exploring the ups and downs of child support in February. Strange topic for the LOVE month, you say? Positive co-parents can always use a little more love.

Next, we'll look at Knowing Your Child Support Needs – Before You Ask. When you ask, with purpose and not punishment or revenge, you are more likely to be successful. And positive

Help us help you – comment and let me know what part of the child support process is driving you nuts! If you have a child support success story, share that as well. 

Come back next week. We’ll have a surprise tool to help you get your child support 'ask' in place and save you some money, cause It’s 2017!!