In every state, there are two basic ways of calculating child support:
(1) calculating child support under the existing state child support guidelines (relying on state averages); and
(2) performing a customized calculation of child support based upon the parties actual predicted net income and respective expenses
Some parties will simply want to go with the state's presumed child support amount. Typically, divorcing parties will be required to perform these calculations and to demonstrate consideration of the results, even if they choose to go with some other arrangement. Even if mediating parties intend to go with state child support guidelines, they may also want to do the a customized calculation of child support to see how "fair" the guideline amount is.
If the mediator assists the parties to calculate child support in both of these ways, there will almost certainly be two different resulting figures. The mediator and the parties will then need to be creative in reducing this dissonance.
It is important to remember that the child support guidelines are not set in stone. In fact, they seem to be changed by either the state legislature or designated administrative bodies annually, if not more often. Despite this changeability, the guidelines do provide a backdrop as to how a court, at least at the present time, would likely approach the situation. It is important for the mediator to emphasize, however, that participants can enter into an agreement on child support other than that indicated by the state child support guidelines, so long as they do that in an informed manner. In most states, the parties will need to attach a copy of the state's child support guideline worksheet or comparable calculations even if they choose some child support amount other than the guideline amount to show that they are making an informed decision.