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Child support and dispute resolution processes

Pennsylvania parents who are getting a divorce and who have young children have options for their child support agreements besides going to court and having a judge decide. For example, they may want to enter into informal negotiations with the help of their attorneys. They could even have their attorneys conduct these negotiations for them.

Another possibility is a more formal set of negotiations using alternative dispute resolution processes. Two of these are mediation and collaborative law, and they bring parents into the process of conflict resolution. The idea with these methods is to put aside the more adversarial process of litigation and work together to reach a solution that satisfies all parties. Arbitration, like litigation, brings in a third party to hear both sides and reach a solution, but it may not be legally binding.

Once parents produce a written agreement using one of these methods, a judge reviews it. This involves making sure that it is fairly negotiated and that it does not violate Pennsylvania child support guidelines. The judge may ask parents questions about the agreement to make sure they both understand it. Once approved, it becomes a court order. This means that if one parent does not pay the agreed-upon support, the other parent can pursue it through legal means.

The parent who pays support has legal recourse as well. One who agrees to a certain amount but then has a drop in income is not necessarily obligated to continue paying the same amount. However, it is necessary for the parent to file a motion for a child support modification based on a change in financial circumstances. Attorneys representing clients who are in this type of a situation will note that even if the modification is granted, it will have no effect on any amounts that are past due.

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