For Rhode Island parents who have minor children and who are getting a divorce, there are several ways that child support may be decided. The court may enter a child support order, but before this, parents have a number of opportunities to make their own decisions about support. Informal negotiations may be carried out either with or without attorneys present, or the attorneys themselves may do these negotiations.
Collaborative law and mediation provide the opportunity for more formal negotiations. Less adversarial and more focused on reaching a cooperative solution than litigation, these processes help parents resolve any issues and make an agreement that suits both of them. In arbitration, a neutral person is brought in to hear evidence from both sides and make a decision. Arbitration is not commonly used in family law, however.
All of these approaches usually end in parents making a written agreement. The agreement then goes to a judge for approval. In general, a judge will approve an agreement that does not violate state child support guidelines and is fairly negotiated. Once the agreement is made legally binding, parents may go through legal channels if one does not uphold it.
Ending a marriage can be a difficult process. However, even couples who are going through a contentious divorce might be able to benefit from alternative dispute resolution processes. In litigation, a judge may make a decision that one or both parties are unhappy with, and there might be little recourse. If one person is uncooperative, is hiding or depleting assets, or is abusive in some way, litigation might be the only option. A parent who is concerned about the child's safety with the other parent may want to share these concerns with an attorney and provide documentation.