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Divorce mediation can increase child support compliance

Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that has gained reputation as a positive alternative to litigation. One type of mediation that has received particular attention, and has proven exceptionally successful, is divorce mediation. According to many, one benefit of divorce mediation is the effect it has on the post-divorce relationship.

The tone of a divorce speaks to the tone of the post-divorce relationship. An adversarial process like litigation increases tension, creating anger and resentment between parties. Divorce mediation, on the other hand requires collaboration, decreasing negative feeling and increasing compliance with things like child support orders.

Mediation uses a neutral third party to assist couples in brokering mutually agreeable solutions to complex issues. Common points of dispute in divorce mediations include the division of assets, parenting time, spousal support and child support. Mediators do not make decisions or issue judgments. Instead, they help couples draft parenting plans.

In Maryland, many people hope to increase divorce mediation in an attempt to increase compliance with child support orders. According to the Department of Human Resources, there are more than 238,000 cases of child support in the state. In 64 percent of those cases, parents only receive a part of the total support ordered.

Fredrick County is currently leading the effort with a community mediation clinic. The Community Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center recently helped one mother create a legally binding agreement for child support with her ex-husband. The woman tried to secure support in court, but ultimately found relief in mediation.

It took about six weeks for the couple to settle on an agreement. In the end, the couple created a parenting plan, which included a 50-50 custody agreement, a visitation and holiday schedule, and detailed child support payments. The woman described the mediation process as tough but ultimately positive and successful.

Because of the success with divorce mediation, a number of states now require couples to enter into mediation before entering into trial. Even those states that do not require mediation prior to litigation often encourage couples to give it a shot.

Source: FrederickNewsPost.com, "State to clean up social services departments, make child support system more responsive," Cara R. Anthony, Dec. 29, 2011

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