I recently presided over a trial in which two parents who had been divorced for almost 4 years spent more than
$15,000 to pay lawyers and a psychologist to argue about what should have been an arithmetic problem–child support adjustment.
Even though I have presided over dozens of such trials, I am still shocked every time I see divorced parents spend thousands of dollars to change child support.
Actually, the cases usually involve more than child support disputes. They start out when one parent asks for an increase in child support. The parent who is being asked to pay more support counters with a request to change custody. That is when the war really begins, and the legal fees skyrocket.
One solution would be for divorced parents to hire a lawyer for their children. It could be a part of their divorce settlement agreement. The children’s lawyer would review child support every few years and decide when an adjustment was appropriate. The children’s lawyer would also be available to address visitation or custody disputes, from the children’s point of view.
The parents would pay their children’s lawyer in proportion to their incomes. It would cost money, but one lawyer would be cheaper than two, and one lawyer would be much cheaper than three, which can happen if the Court appoints a lawyer for the children after each parent has already hired a lawyer and a custody war has started.
New Mexico law currently requires divorcing parents to declare in their parenting plans what religion the children will practice and where they will go to school and who their dentist and doctor will be. Maybe we should add to the law and require divorcing parents to also declare who the children’s lawyer will be.
Some may believe that lawyers would resist such a change in the law because it would take away their business. I predict divorce lawyers would support this change in the law because they know that very few divorced families can afford an expensive post-divorce law suit. Also, most lawyers would rather represent the children in child support or custody disputes than either of the parents.
Even if the law doesn’t get changed, divorcing parents can take matters into their own hands. They should agree, as part of their original divorce, that post-divorce child support and custody disputes will be handled by one lawyer, one who represents the children.