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Negotiating a custody schedule that works for your family

When you cannot negotiate, when you cannot talk, when you cannot reach agreements, then you have war. When it comes to your children, you don’t want to drag them into a war. You’ll want to negotiate.

The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Research has shown that divorce doesn’t harm children, it is the parents fighting that harms children. Finding a way for both of you to negotiate, agree and avoid litigation, can spare your children. Alternative dispute resolution methods such as collaborative divorce and mediation offer a way to stay out of the courtroom and promote positive communication, leading to an agreement you both can live with.

Collaborative divorce

Both spouses commit upfront to resolve all matters without litigating. The process uses a team approach to aid with decision making. The teams may use family or child specialists, mediators, financial specialists and others as needed. Both parties retain attorneys who are trained and experienced in collaborative divorce to assist them through the process. The process uses more of a troubleshoot and problem-solve mentality, rather than a must-win attitude. When the divorce becomes a competition, no one wins.

How mediation works

Like collaborative divorce, divorce mediation is designed to keep the divorce out of court. The spouses receive training in the process, obtain legal representation and bring to the table a list of the issues that need resolution. The mediator will guide them through the process, keeping the discussion positive, productive and on track. The attorneys are present to provide legal advice and draft and file the paperwork required to complete the matter. Mediation works because it empowers the parties to make their own decisions, taking away the I win, you lose mentality.

Keeping the children’s best interests

When you’re negotiating, keeping the interests of your children first and foremost will help to create a plan tailored to your family’s needs. Some tips to help you negotiate the best possible plan:

  • Prepare: Have an attorney that values collaborative law and mediation. Know the Pennsylvania child custody laws.
  • Take a deep breath: Be calm and polite. Keep your emotions in check as you remember this is for your children.
  • Be flexible: Remember that other people have good ideas too. Be open to their ideas. Being flexible can help to reach an agreement that works for your family.
  • The plan is your plan: You’ll want to stick to it and communicate when something like a work trip comes up. OurFamilyWizard.com is a helpful co-parenting site offering tools for coordinating custody schedules, splitting expenses and sharing children’s health records.

Collaborative law and mediation are designed to take away the fighting and focus on what’s best for your children. The sooner you can agree, the sooner you both can move on with your lives.

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