Some divorcing Pennsylvania parents may think that the only way to settle child support matters is to go to family court, but this is not true. They have the option to negotiate an agreement on their own or resolve it through alternative dispute resolution.
Parents who are willing to resolve child support-related issues could negotiate their own settlement. Some parents choose to only have their attorneys look over the final agreement, and others have their attorneys do the negotiating for them. No matter which process they follow, the ideal result is a written settlement that stipulates the amount, frequency and duration of the payments. Once approved by the court, this could become part of the divorce order.
Alternative dispute resolution is available for parents who are not able to come to an agreement and who need help resolving child support issues. Some processes for ADR include collaborative law and mediation, and these are generally more relaxed than a traditional court environment. In some cases, ADR helps the parents come to an agreement faster. One reason for this is because the parents get to actively participate in making key decisions rather than allowing the court to decide for them.
Arbitration is another form of ADR. but it is rarely used for family law matters. This involves an impartial third party deciding what is best after hearing arguments and evidence from the parents and their attorneys. These decisions aren't always binding, so the parents might still have to settle key issues later in court.
Regardless of how the agreement is reached, the court still has to approve it. The court will also have to approve a related child custody agreement, which can be reached in a similar manner after it has been reviewed by the parents' respective family law attorneys.