Many child support cases in North Carolina are eventually resolved by agreement between the parties. This can either happen by an agreement between the parents, which is frequently negotiated through their attorneys, or through an out-of-court dispute resolution process such as mediation.
In some cases, parents are able to work out issues related to child support without an attorney. Even if both parties agree, however, they may wish to have an attorney draft the agreement. In cases where the parties cannot agree, they may have their attorneys negotiate an agreement that is fair to both parents.
Alternative dispute resolution, also known as ADR, is an option where the parties try to settle a case out of court using another method. One example of ADR is mediation, where the parties sit down with their attorneys and a third-party mediator to work out important issues. Another example is arbitration, where the parties argue their case to an arbitrator rather than to a judge in court.
After the parties reach an agreement, the agreement is memorialized in a written document often called a "settlement agreement", which is signed by both parties and their attorneys. The settlement agreement is then incorporated into a divorce decree, which is signed by a judge. As long as the agreement does not contradict state guidelines, a judge will typically approve the agreement signed by the parties.
Hiring an attorney has several advantages. An attorney can usually help the parties draft an agreement with specific legal language so that it will be accepted by the court. An attorney may also be familiar with what a particular judge expects as well as relevant state and federal law. Having an attorney draft documents well the first time may also make the chances of coming back to court later for an agreement modification less likely.