Family law judges in Texas and around the country are often called upon to decide how much noncustodial parents should pay each month in child support, but couples can avoid having to go to court if they reach an agreement through informal negotiation or an alternative form of dispute resolution like mediation or collaborative family law. Divorcing couples are usually able to put their differences aside when the welfare of their children is at stake, and they may be able to settle issues like child custody and support amicably even when contentious matters like property division and spousal support remain unresolved.
Child support agreements stipulate how much noncustodial parents should pay as well as how often and for how long these payments should be made. Once these details have been worked out, a settlement agreement is drawn up and signed by both parents. However, these agreements do not generally go into effect until a family law judge has reviewed them to ensure that their provisions meet state child support guidelines.
When reviewing child custody settlement agreements during divorce proceedings, family law judges may choose to ask parents questions in an informal hearing. They will seek to ascertain whether or not the agreement was negotiated fairly and satisfy themselves that both parents understand their responsibilities. Once the agreement is approved, the judge will issue a child support order and the agreement becomes legally enforceable.
Parents can choose to conduct informal child support negotiations on their own, but experienced family law attorneys will likely advise them against taking this path. Amicable agreements can be difficult to reach even when the parties involved share common goals, and frustration can quickly boil over into anger when the stakes are high.