When California parents of young children get a divorce, one will in most cases be required to pay child support to the other. There are a few ways in which child support may be decided. The parents might negotiate with one another, often with the help of their respective attorneys, and reach an agreement. There may be a more formal process of alternative dispute resolution that still takes place outside of court. In cases where the divorce is contested, the judge presiding over the trial will make the determination.

Issues that must be addressed include how often payments will be made, what the amount will be and how long child support will continue. Parents might conduct this negotiation entirely through their attorneys. Both mediation and collaborative divorces fall under the umbrella of alternative dispute resolutions, and these tend to take a more cooperative stance compared to the more adversarial experience of litigation. Arbitration is another option although it is not very common in family law disputes.

In both of these cases, the end result is generally a written agreement that usually goes to court for approval by a judge. A judge looks at whether the agreement appears to be fair and is in line with state guidelines. It then becomes a binding legal agreement. This means that a parent can use legal means to pursue child support enforcement.

By coming to an agreement outside of the courtroom, parents might be able to agree to an arrangement that suits them better than the decision a judge might make. They may also want to create a parenting agreement, which is a document that attempts to bring some consistency to their co-parenting efforts. It might address any number of issues including children’s involvement in extracurricular activities and how vacations will be planned.