8 Reasons Parents Should Try Mediation When Determining Child Support

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Determining child support can be a particularly confusing aspect of custody (known as “timesharing” in Florida) because of the math and logistics involved.

Both parents are legally obligated, in Florida, to financially support their child until they become an adult (when they turn 18, or, in some cases 19 if they have not yet graduated high school. The other exception is in the case of children with special needs, who may be entitled to receive child support for their entire lives).

However, how much each parent is supposed to financially support their child depends on their situation. The family courts in Florida have child support guidelines, but everyone’s circumstances are unique. This is especially true if it is a high-net-worth divorce or there is dishonesty regarding financial disclosures, trying to narrow down the particulars can lead to conflict. When money, children, and emotions are involved, conflict is almost inevitable!

That is why mediation is a great step to take. Mediation is a non-adversarial meeting between you, your co-parent, and your attorneys (if you have legal representation) where an unbiased, third-party professional – called a mediator – seeks to help you find an agreement.

What Is Mediation?

The mediator will review the facts of the case (including the state’s guidelines regarding child support) and each side’s wants and needs, as well as the points of agreement and disagreement. Then, the mediator will work to bring the two sides together until an agreement is reached. Legal documents will be prepared, both parties can sign, and it will be submitted to the court for approval.

Mediation can help you and your co-parent find a mutually agreeable solution of who should pay child support and how much they should pay without turning the issue into a dramatic, costly court battle that can cause you unnecessary stress and risk access to your children.

Here are 8 compelling reasons parents should try mediation when determining child support!

1 – The Court Will Order You To

Florida requires mediation in accordance with Florida law in parental responsibility/ timesharing/child support cases that do not involve domestic violence. Obviously, when the court orders it, you need to follow the court’s instructions, though there are many other reasons why mediation is beneficial (below)!

2 – It Can Save You Thousands Of Dollars

Mediation is not free, but it is one of the most cost-effective options available to Florida parents determining child support. Parents who have a combined annual income of less than $50,000 are able to work with a court-certified mediator for $60.00 per party, per session; parents who have a combined annual income of less than $100,000 are able to work with a court-certified mediator for $120.00 per party, per session.

If the combined annual income is at or over $100,000, parents must select a private mediator and pay their fees – but in many cases, selecting a private mediator is actually in your best interests! For one thing, a private mediator will likely have less cases than a public mediator and will be more available (you may have to wait months to meet with a public mediator); they may also have more experience in family law cases or other specialized knowledge about child support that can be helpful to your family. The more skilled the mediator is, the better the agreement they are likely to help you reach (and the more quickly they are likely to help you reach it).

Having either a private or public mediator is cheaper than a trial! Going to court over your child support issue can, in contrast, cost you tens of thousands in litigation fees (attorney fees for litigation, court fees, expert witness fees, and more). Even if you have a lawyer representing you in mediation, which is recommended, and they bill by the hour, you will spend much less on their fee than you would if they had to prepare for trial, as cases like this can drag on in court for weeks or even months.

3 – It Can Prevent Tension In Your Relationship With Your Kids 

Mediating child support issues is easier on children, which is one of the most important reasons on this list. The entire process keeps the children at the center; not as a rope in a tug of war, but in a way that prioritizes their happiness and well-being. Trained mediators can help you and your co-parent set aside your personal differences and focus on your child! Going to court can make your children feel like they have to choose between one of the parents or are caught in the middle of a battle.

It can also decrease your stress, which can have a positive effect on the way you are at home with your kids. If they are old enough to understand, or when they look back on this period of their lives, they may be grateful that you tried everything in your power to keep things amicable.

4 – It Can Result In Easier Co-Parenting Down The Road

Mediation does not mean that you have to be friends with your co-parent, like them, or even get along with them (outside of the mediation room). All it means is that instead of raised voices, name-calling, and accusations – and instead of having your attorney attack them in court – you can take a collaborative, more productive approach.

In a trial over child support, someone always “loses”, and that can make things awkward or bitter between you and your co-parent down the road. Mediation is a win-win; both of you walk away with a settlement agreement that you both feel is in the best interests of your family. It can also teach you communication strategies that you can use going forward. This sets the stage for a good (if not “close”) relationship between you both in the future, as opposed to the other parent always trying to get back at you for perceived wrongs.

5 – It Gets More Buy-In From Your Co-Parent, Preventing Future Problems

One of the most common concerns about child support is enforcement. Even if there is a court order, how can you trust that your co-parent will pay you on time and the specified amount (if they are unreliable)? If they do not, it could leave you and your child in a tough position, without the money you expected and need.

Florida courts do have ways of enforcing court-ordered child support, but one of the best things about mediation is that it makes it much more likely that your co-parent will abide by the agreement because they participated in making it. They have a stake in the process and they will (if mediation is successful) be content with their end of the bargain, so you can have more confidence they will uphold it.

6 – It Takes Your Unique Needs Into Account

You have way more control over the outcome of your child support arrangement in mediation than you do in a courtroom. You have more time to speak and make your concerns heard, and you have someone actively trying to understand you and help you be understood! This means that there is more room in a mediation for creative solutions. For example, say you are the one who will likely end up paying child support, but you do not earn money at regular intervals. Perhaps you can agree on paying lump-sum amounts instead of monthly amounts, or work something else out that fits your earning ability.

7 – It Is Private

If you resort to litigation, your personal life will essentially become a matter of public record. Any of your financial or relationship issues brought up in court are available to the public; there is no privacy when you go to family court. For high-net-worth individuals, this can be especially concerning, but for anyone, it is yet another reason to attempt mediation first. Child support mediation in Florida is completely confidential (unless child abuse is suspected or brought up).

8 – If It Does Not Work, There Is No Harm Done!

If you attempt mediation, and your co-parent refuses to cooperate, or you simply cannot agree on any compromises or see eye-to-eye about the issue of child support, you can declare an impasse, walk out, and take your case to trial and fight for your right and your child’s interests in front of a judge.

If You Need A Florida Mediator Or A Florida Attorney To Represent You In Mediation Over A Child Support Issue, Call Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm!

Navigating receiving or paying child support can be complex, but you do not have to do it alone! Contact our firm to discuss more of the benefits and your specific circumstances with a certified mediator! We can explain the process in more detail, including what you should expect. We can represent you, in which case we will fight for your interests. Our firm’s attorneys and mediators have more than a hundred years of combined experience! Call today to request a free 15-minute case evaluation.

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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm
18503 Pines Blvd, Suite 301
Pembroke Pines, FL 33029
(954) 447-2580

Sergio Cabanas, Esq. | Family Law Attorney | Cabanas Law Firm

Sergio Cabanas, Esq. founded the Cabanas Law Firm in 2006 and provides Divorce and Family legal services, as well as Estate Planning, to ensure his clients have planned for their newly single life and are protected after their divorce. He began his career in law in 1992 as a prosecuting attorney at the Broward County State Attorney’s Office, then continued his litigation track as an insurance defense attorney defending medical professionals against medical malpractice claims and expanded into disability and life insurance claims. Sergio is a Certified Mediator registered in the Supreme Court of Florida and a frequent speaker in the community about the importance of Estate Planning to keep families out of probate court and to prepare essential instructions in the event of disability or incapacity.