If you are going through a custody dispute, perhaps as part of a divorce, it is usually best to negotiate a parenting plan with your children’s other parent. A negotiated settlement of your custody issues allows you greater control over the outcome, whereas litigating the issue in court puts the decision in the hands of a judge who is necessarily acting on more limited information.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when one of the parents is unsuited to a custodial role or is legally unfit but is nevertheless insisting on custody. But, in most cases when both parents are reasonable, mature, and engaged in their children’s lives, it’s best to reach an agreement on a parenting plan you can present to the court for approval.
But how do you reach that agreement? Negotiating is an art, and it’s helpful to have an experienced family law attorney to guide you. There are also key steps you can take to improve your chances of success:
- Focus on the best interests of your children — This is the standard the court uses to decide custody issues. It’s understandable that you want to stand up for your own interests and your parental rights, and certainly, many of your goals for custody will advance your children’s interests. But if any of your goals negatively impact your children, you should be ready to compromise.
- Try to see the other parent as your children do — Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, children love their parents equally. If you can get past your anger or disappointment with your ex and begin to see what your children see, you will find it easier to be supportive of their continuing relationship, and you’ll be able to be more reasonable with your demands.
- Reflect on the advantages of shared parenting — As much as you love your children, taking on all or most of the custodial duties will make more demands on your time. Shared custody can mean more free time to pursue your interests.
- Come with a plan — No one knows your family better than you. Rough out a detailed schedule for overnights and see how that might work for your children’s school schedule, activities, and the parents’ work schedules. When you begin with a well-thought-out, practical plan, you have a great starting point for discussions.
Negotiating or mediating your parenting plan can be a positive experience. Working with your ex to overcome obstacles to co-parenting can pay dividends when you put your parenting plan into action.
For knowledgeable and effective child custody litigation, consult an experienced family law attorney at Kaufman & McPherson, PLLC.