Do we need to go to court to set up a spousal or child support agreement in California?

It is not necessary to go to court

The short answer is no, you don’t have to go to court to have a spousal or child support agreement. Going to court is usually the last step after all other avenues of talk and negotiation have failed to achieve an agreement acceptable to both parties.

Several alternative dispute resolution processes do not include the courts at all. Alternative Dispute Resolution processes include:

  • Divorce Mediation
  • Divorce Collaboration
  • Parenting Coordination

We have spoken about all of these processes separately and the pages, found here, here, and here, are work reviewing to get a detailed description of each.

Agreements can be made through mediation

Briefly, Divorce Mediation is when the divorcing couple meets with a mediator without legal representation present during the negotiations to work through all of the aspects of the divorce. The mediator is acting neither as a judge nor a legal representative. Their job is to help the couple discuss and agree on the division of property, custody of the children, spousal support, and other issues. The benefit of mediation is to retain control of your unique circumstances and create an agreement that works for you.

Just because there are no attorneys present during the mediation sessions, it is still a good idea to meet with a family law attorney, who can also act as a mediation coach to ensure that you are ready for the negotiations and are clear on the process and which areas you are willing to compromise and which areas you are ready to stand firm on.

Collaboration is also an option

Divorce Collaboration is another way to move away from an adversarial process to one where the power remains with the couple. Collaborative divorce does utilize attorneys, but the goal is to work through issues in a productive, problem-solving environment as opposed to the fight and win setting of a courtroom.

Parenting Coordination is the process of working out details specifically related to child custody, support and developing a parenting plan, which lays out parenting time, vacation planning, and other details involving the children.

Many couples are moving toward these non-confrontational ways to get through their divorce. Most people realize that in most cases with children, both parents are going to be active in their children’s lives, and even after finalizing the divorce, the ex-couple will still be involved in each other’s lives due to the children.

Coming to the terms of a divorce through alternative dispute methods can help to keep the animosity to a minimum.
Alternative dispute resolution is not for everyone, and there are times when you want the power and enforcement of a judge’s ruling, such as if there have been issues with physical or emotional abuse, or if there are other issues such as a parent with a drug or alcohol addiction.

​Even without these sorts of major issues, sometimes alternative dispute resolution does not lead to a working solution. In those cases, you may very well end up in court, but as you can see, that is usually the last option.


1530 The Alameda, Suite 108
San Jose, CA 95126

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TDC Family Law serves the entire state of California for Contempt of Court and Private Settlement Judge & Mediation

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