What is child support mediation?

By Caroline Felstiner

When I began mediation training, I was encouraged by my instructors to view mediation as an art or practice. Simply learning the techniques and facts required for accreditation would not be enough to be an effective and busy mediator. That would require ongoing reflection, assessment, and continuing education.

By guest poster Caroline Fesltiner

Caroline Fesltiner

That’s why I have seized every opportunity to continue my education. In January Andrea Caskey and Elizabeth Hyde lead a child support workshop that I was able to attend. A review of the history of child support and the current guidelines reinforced my own academic experience. However my understanding of the subject was enhanced by their spotlighting some of the nuances in calculating child support.

An area we discussed at length was the need to accurately calculate the payor’s income. Self-employment is a common reality and Mediation clients frequently ask to use an estimate of the child support payor’s income. We were led through the child support calculation process for a fictional family where one of the parents was self-employed. This exercise confirmed that a lasting agreement¬—that respects the child’s right to benefit from the financial support of both parents—could only be achieved if the payor’s accurate income were used.

Continuing education has also inspired the use of mediation to resolve other areas of conflict. For example, many families use court motions as a means to revise child support payments. My own experiences in court-based mediation were similar to most of the workshop participants who had also encouraged clients to use mediation as an effective method of adjusting child support.

Several mediators agreed that child support recipients are more likely to accept changes in child support when they fully understand the reason behind the change. Mediation provides the opportunity for parents to fully explain to each other the reasons for, and effects of, any changes in child support.

My goal as a mediator is to provide the best service possible for each client. To that end I will continue to share with and learn from my colleagues. Workshops like this one provide the experience, education and reflection necessary to become an effective mediator for my clients.