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Can you negotiate child support during mediation?

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, are huge proponents of mediation. For those of you reading this blog who don’t know what mediation is, it is a process where you, your opposing party, and your attorneys work with a third party (usually a family law attorney attorneyattorney) to negotiate and settle your case before a trial. In mediation, any issue that you and your opposing party have not yet agreed upon will be dealt with.

The mediator will act like a ping pong ball- bouncing back and forth between the room where you and your attorney are, and your opposing party and their attorney are. Settlement proposals will be communicated.

A mediator can help to point out flaws in your or your opponent’s logic and prepare each side for how a judge is likely to rule on any issue being negotiated upon. This allows both sides to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases.

What ends up happening most of the time is that you and the opposing party begin to understand that you are less likely to receive the outcomes you want in a trial than you would negotiate with one another.

Your settlement may not be exactly what you want, but it is at least something that you know will work for each side. There is no telling how a judge will rule in a trial, and it is anyone’s guess as to how the ruling will affect each side.

Does mediation benefit you if child support is at issue?

What if the issue that you and your opposing party cannot agree upon is child support? Child Support is a subject that is a much-discussed and debated topic- no matter if you are the parent who pays or receives the support. Seemingly everyone involved in a family law case that I have come into contact with has an opinion on child support.

Does mediation stand to help you and your opposing party settle this thorny issue? What are the benefits of attending a mediation session regarding child support? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will discuss just that issue. While there are situations where mediation may not be appropriate, I believe that mediating through child support disputes can be productive and you both time and money. Let’s examine this issue a little further.

Your family is not the same as my family (or your neighbor’s across the street)

No two families are created equal. You may have three kids, while my wife and I have two. You all may live a different lifestyle than my family does and do it in another part of our community. The point is that it would be silly to assume that what would work for my family in a child support case would work just the same for your family.

However, that is precisely where you and your family may find yourself if you cannot settle your child support disputes outside of the courtroom. The Texas Family Code contains guidelines for child support payment, which breaks down child support as a percentage of the obligor (paying) parent’s net monthly income.

It is a simple calculation not because all of the obligor spouse’s net income sources need to be considered. It is thought that this manner of calculating support applies the best to the most amount of people in our state.

If you have a child with special needs or are yourself disabled, you may find that these strict percentages do not work well for your family.

While a judge will surely want to act in your child’s best interests, there is no guarantee as to how they would rule on the subject of child support. Once you and your opponent have presented your cases, the judge will make a ruling that can impact your family for years to come.

To avoid putting yourself and your family in a position where a judge will have the final word regarding child support, you can choose to engage in the mediation process and attempt to settle your dispute outside of the courtroom.

Nobody knows your child and your family better than you and your child’s other parent. You all can calculate more accurately the child support needs of your family than a judge would be able to. Factors like you or the other parent’s ability to pay support, the actual amount of time each of you spends with your child, and the needs of your child all play into the calculation and negotiation.

What does child support cover?

An age-old debate among family law case participants is what child support covers and what it does not cover. The law is silent on this subject, and we are told that the child's proven needs are supposed to be considered when determining a child support obligation.

In mediation, you and your opposing party have an opportunity to mutually agree on what child support covers and what it does not. This is important if, in the future, you decide to enroll your child in an extracurricular activity of some sort that has extra costs associated with their participation.

You can decide if extracurriculars are covered by child support. If you intend that they should be, perhaps you and your opposing parent will negotiate a higher than guidelines level of support. You may have to pay more every month, for example. Still, any discussion down the line of your needing to pay extra for the activity will be curtailed due to your having decided the issue in mediation.

What exactly are your respective incomes?

Mediation allows you to see just what exactly your opposing party earns. You may have an idea, but unless you know all sources of income, you cannot accurately calculate child support.

Seeing the other parent's income in mediation will allow you a preview of what you can expect to see in a trial. Suppose there is a dispute over whether or not a particular source of income should count in the child support calculation. In that case, the mediator can voice their opinion and attempt to play the tiebreaker.

Can you agree to no child support being paid in mediation?

A question that I receive with regularity is whether or not you and your opposing party can agree to no child support being paid. While this does not happen as often as you may think, the answer is yes.

Suppose you have a similar income to that of your opposing party, share expenses for extracurricular and other activities of your child, and split time with your child at around a 50/50 breakdown. In that case, you can settle on the subject of child support with zero dollars being owed by either of you.

This outcome is not possible in court, so you would be well served to settle your child support case in mediation than to proceed to trial if this outcome is your goal.

Questions about mediating child support cases? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, have experience litigating and mediating many family law cases including child support matters. Our office represents clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to speak to you about doing the same for you and your family.

For a free consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact our office today. We offer consultations in our office six days a week.

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Other Articles you may be interested in regarding Houston Court Local Rules:

  1. Texas Family Law Courts: Mediation and Divorce Essentials
  2. Texas Family Law Courts: What to Expect
  3. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 245TH Judicial District Local Rules
  4. 247TH Judicial District Local Rules
  5. 246TH Judicial District Local Rules
  6. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 308TH Judicial District Local Rules
  7. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 257TH Judicial District Local Rules
  8. Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
  9. What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
  10. Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
  11. Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
  12. Does it Matter Whose Name is on Title or Deed of Property in a Divorce in Texas?
  13. Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

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