Minnesota couples who are ending their marriage and who have young children have a number of options when it comes to making a decision about child support. While child support may be decided by a judge in a court hearing, parents might instead opt to negotiate it in an informal manner. This is usually done with their attorneys.
Another option might be an alternative dispute resolution method such as arbitration, mediation or collaborative law. Arbitration is relatively uncommon in family law situations, but it involves having a third party hear both sides and make a decision. That decision is usually one that can be altered. With mediation or collaborative law, the parents, and possibly their attorneys, participate in the process of conflict resolution in an effort to reach a compromise.
The aim is to produce a written agreement that specifies the frequency, amount and duration of child support payments. The agreement may be reviewed by a judge before it becomes legally binding. A judge will confirm that the agreement is in line with state child support guidelines and was negotiated fairly. There may also be an informal session with the parents and the judge in which the judge asks questions to ensure both parents understand the facts of the agreement.
Couples may negotiate other elements of a divorce using alternative dispute resolution processes as well. This may include property division, custody and visitation, and the parenting agreement. If parents can learn to resolve conflict effectively during the divorce, they may be able to use these same skills in co-parenting, and this can be to the benefit of the children. The parenting agreement might attempt to anticipate areas of conflict and address them as well.