Child Support Options in the Collaborative Process

Whenever there are minor children one issue that must be addressed, whether a case is collaborative or not, is child-support. Obviously it costs money to raise children.

In the litigation realm generally the information requested by the Michigan Child Support Foundation (i.e. incomes, tax status, overnights, medical insurance for children, and childcare) is put into the state approved software and a for child support number is generated. This number reduces as each child reaches age eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever is later. Also there is a formula for paying children’s medical expenses.

One of the many advantages of the collaborative process over the litigation process is that we are not bound by a formula which was created by a committee and approved by the Michigan Supreme Court. To blindly follow the formula does not create a good co-parenting environment for raising children post-divorce. To somehow believe that this one size fits all approach is applicable to all situations is nothing short of ridiculous.

First of all, by law, the formula has to be reevaluated and potentially changed every four years. If this formula was perfect, why would it need any changes every four years? So, child support amount is dependent on what version of the formula was used. Also, if we lived 120 miles south, we would be in Indiana which has a completely different formula.

Second, the formula gives us a number but it is largely undefined what this amount covers. For example, does it cover summer camp, sports fees, class trips, music lessons, etc.? No one is really sure. Then, to pretend that all kids take the same amount of money each year is simply wrong. Ask any parent who has had a child in diapers and formula, a six-year-old boy, and a daughter who is a senior high school, that parent will tell you that the costs associated with each of those children varies greatly. Therefore, in the collaborative process we work with budgets and actual costs to try to allocate fairly the cost of raising a child. Is this sometimes difficult? Of course. But it is worth it.

We also talk about college costs. Our collaborative parents discuss expectations regarding college expenses. This is no different than in an intact family. Parents may disagree on whether it is wise for a child to go to an expensive college versus a staying at home and going to a less costly local college. The collaborative process allows these discussions to take place in a reasonable and thoughtful manner.

The issue of child support, similar to many other issues, is where the collaborative process excels. We come up with solutions for the family that work. This is not the one-size-fits-all scenario because families come in all shapes and sizes.