Why litigate when you can mediate for only $449 per side?
Parents have a legal as well as a moral duty to support their children. When Mom and Dad live together, there is seldom any issue in this regard. However, when the parents do not live together the child(ren)’s expenses do not stop, in fact, they go up almost as fast as tempers of the parties when fighting over the amount or payment of child support. But it does not have to be this way.
If you have a legitimate reason for variance away from the child support guidelines - whether you are asking for child support in excess of the guidelines based on the child’s needs, or your the party asking for a downward departure - you’re much better off discussing those with a mediator and the other parent, neither of whom have to “explain” why the variance is proper - only that it is agreed by the parties. You should mediate not litigate.
Child support is as important as child custody and often much more hotly contested. And, like custody, the issues do not end when the Judge bangs the gavel and pronounces you divorced. Parents often spend years litigating custody, conservatorship, and child support issues wasting thousands upon thousands of dollars in the attempt to have control. The fighting does not end with divorce, it begins. You may not live in the same house but you still have to make decisions as parents and you both have to support the children ntil they are legal adults who can care for themselves.
Mediation offers you, the real parties in interest a chance to voice your concerns, express your desires, discuss your goals and work through the problem. For $449 per side, you and the other parent can meet with a skilled mediator, who will assist you in reaching a solution. If your facts demand more than half a day, additional time can be scheduled and we don’t even have to check your lawyers’ schedules - because there aren’t any.
So, why mdeiate child support, aferall, isn't child support set by law? It may surprise you to learn that the "guidelines" are just that "suggested guidelines". The Judge is not bound by the guidelines and can vary up or down if tt is propert and just. While Courts often, in fact almost always stick to the guidellines, Courts can and do approve creative solutions even in the area of child support. As an eample, one of the largest complaints any child support lawyer hears is "she does not spend the money on my kids" or "why can't I decide how the child support is spent"? If a Judge does this, the Judge sets an amount of money, decides who pays that money, and the other parent is free to use the money as he/she deems best. The payor gets no say.
In mediation, the parties can reach an agreement that benefits everyone. My best example is a case wehre child support and the mortgage amount were close to the same amount of money each month, with the mortgage being just a little more. In a divorce, the Judge would have ordered Dad to pay support, but the Judge would have also ordred the house sold because it was financed in both names. This is fair, but Mom wanted to keep the house in the school district so that the kids could go to that school as did a lot of other parents meaning rental rates in the area were much higher than the mortgage. While Judge cannot order this, the parties agreed that Dad would pay the mortgage instead of child support, Mom would live in the house until the two boys graduated high school, then they would sell the house and split the equity which would be higher. Basically, Dad knew exactly how the child support was being spent, Mom got to stay in the house and the boys got to attend the better school. More importantly, the couple saved on taxes, built equity, the housing market improved, and after both boys graduated, they each got a nice sum of money at the closing table. Now that is getting creative in a way a Judge just cannot.
Setting Child Support
Child support is a huge issue in most any child custody fight and is generally determined by first establishing which parent has primary custody of the child. The other parent, who has visitation, often referred to as the “Possessory Conservator” will usually pay child support based on the Possessory Conservator’s income.
Child Support is based on “net resources”
Texas courts calculate child support by taking a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s “net resources”. Net resources is defined as the obligor’s income from all sources after deducting Federal Income Tax (at the Single with 1 deduction rate), medicare, social security, the cost of the child’s health insurance, and certain allowances (such as union dues, uniforms, and cost directly related to maintaining the obligor’s job). After determining the Obligor’s Net Resources, the Court generally will set child support as a percentage using the following table:
Number of Children before the Court
When there are additional children who are not before the CourtIt is becoming increasingly common for an obligor to have children in more than one household - that is to say, paying child support to two or more persons, or in the alternative, paying child support to the mother of one child while having custody of another child in the obligor’s home. In this event, the child support is offset to account for the multiple households using the Multiple Household Child Support Table.
Why mediate when the
First because of the cost. Not just the attorneys fees, but the cost in time, hurt feelings, anger, and distrust that are all byproducts of litigation.
You should also consider that while the application of the guidelines is presumed, a Judge may vary from the guidelines if the circumstances of the parties or the child(ren)’s needs justify the variance.
Child Support can only be adjusted if someone asks.
One of the most common issues we hear in child support cases is that the obligor was unemployed for a period of time or simply could not pay the court ordered child support because of some circumstance beyond the obligor’s control. In the alternative, the Obligee has increased cost for the child but cannot afford a lawyer to go to court to get the support he/she needs adjusted.
That may be true, but if you do not advise the court and ask for the modification, the support continues to accrue at the amount set in your orders. Often-times this continues for years because one or both parties simply cannot afford a lawyer to change the Orders. Litigation is expensive, it requires the parties to take time from work, the kids feel as though they are stuck in the middle and the stress that always accompanies financial issues can be overwhelming.
But it does not have to be that way. You can mediate your child support modification without a lawyer at Family Mediation Services. Change your child support without the cost and expense of a divorce lawyer.
Modifying Child Support
Things change - people change jobs, remarry, have more children, and a child's needs change too. The child support you are receiving or paying may be too may be too high or too low. Either way, you owe it to yourself to consult with a family law attorney with experience in divorce and child custody/child support issues when there is a significant change in your life or the life of your child. But lawyers are expensive, so why not agree to mediate if:
Either parent can seek a modification when there is a change in the needs of the child(ren) or the circumstances of the parties that justify a modification. There is a lot of litigation on exactly what constitutes a change in circumstances.
This is where mediation is an excellent tool. First, it is a lot less expensive. If the only goal is to increase or decrease the child support based on circumstances, why pay lawyers thousands of dollars to do simple math and explain changes, if any, in the law?
Mediate, don’t litigate. You can schedule a half day mediation with one or our skilled family law mediators for only $895. That is the total cost for a half day mediation to resolve the issues, or at the very least narrow the issues to what cannot be agreed.
It is most common for the Obligee (parent with primary possession who also receives the child support) to request a modification because the Obligor (parent paying the support) has gotten a raise, promotion, or new job. However, the Obligor may request a modification too.
Why would an Obligor fight to change child support? Because child support is based on income and number of children. If the Obligor is laid off, hours cut back or now has more children to support, the court will adjust accordingly.
When should I modify my child support?
Once a court establishes child support orders, the amount of support ordered can only be changed if some one files a Motion to Modify with the Court. If the other parent is now making more money, you do not get an increase unless the Court issues a new order. If you are obligated to pay support and your income has decreased, you do not get a break in the amount of child support you must pay monthly unless the Court issues a new order -- your child support does not stop just because you lost a job, it is your responsibility to ask the court for relief in the form of a modification.
There is a lot of information available for the parent receiving child support in the form of friends telling them when the other spouse gets a new car, new job, or even has another child. These same sources invariably advise to “take him back to court and get more child support”. Unfortunately, there is not as much concern paid to the parent that pays child support - usually Dad. In fact, an all too common issue arises when Dad is sued for past due child support and advises that the reason he did not pay is because he lost a job (whether laid-off, terminated for cause, or forced to quit due to health or other concerns).
The fact is: Just like Mom will not get more child support unless she asks the court to modify when Dad starts making more money, Dad does not get a decrease in child support when his income goes down unless he asks the court to modify. Furthermore, modifications are NOT retroactive to the event giving rise to the change - the one exception being a de-facto change in custody.
If you are paying child support and you are unable to pay the support ordered by the court due to a change in your income, YOU MUST REQUEST A MODIFICATION. If you do not seek a modification and choose to just pay later, you will pay later and you will pay dearly.
If we don’t agree, will the Court vary from the guidelines?
The Court’s power to vary from the guidelines is found in chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code which state - the Court may adjust the amount [of child support] based on multiple factors which are: (1) the age and needs of the child; (2) the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child; (3) any financial resources available for the support of the child; (4) the amount of possession and access to the child; (5) the net resources of the parent to pay support, including the earning potential of the parent to pay support if the actual income of that parent is significantly less than what that parent could earn, the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed; (6) any childcare expenses necessary for the employment of either parent; (7) whether a parent has custody of another child and any child support expenses being paid or received for the care of another child; (8) the amount of alimony being currently paid or received; (9) provisions for health care; (10) any educational or health care needs of the child, including college expenses; (11) any benefits a parent receives from an employer; (12) any debts or obligations of a parent; (13) any wage or salary deductions of the parents; (14) the cost of traveling to visit the child; (15) any positive or negative cash flow from any assets, including a business or investments; (16) any provisions for health care or insurance; (17) any special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parents or the child; (18) whether either parent has a car or housing furnished by an employer or other person or business; and (19) any other relevant factor.