Many parents face the challenge of negotiating terms of visitation and custody, which can be a daunting task. When tensions are high, often around the end of a relationship, it can feel impossible to make good, sound decisions for your children’s well-being.
Oftentimes, family members may intervene, trying to weigh in on what should happen in a new agreement. The stress of all these elements can emotionally tax the parents who need to make these important decisions. You may find yourself negotiating with your ex through certified divorce coaches or with a judge in court.
Regardless of the situation, here are some things to keep in mind.
You are not alone.
The first thing to remember when beginning the process of negotiation is that you are not alone. You’re not the first person to face this challenge and you won’t be the last.
Split parents make critical decisions for their children every day. Even though it may seem like you’re doomed to summit Mount Everest, have the confidence in yourself that you can work with your ex in order to establish a new schedule. There’s always a way to find an agreement and to keep the children’s best interest at the heart of your negotiations.
Focus on your children.
The best and most productive decision you can make when negotiating custody and visitation is to put your own interests and pride aside and think clearly about what’s best for the kids. In the midst of a breakup, the stakes are high and can often tempt you to try to make your ex suffer, possibly through trying to take away time with the children. But when this happens, the children will pay the price. Studies show that children benefit the most from having regular, equal times with each parent. Keep this at the forefront of your thoughts when negotiating important terms.
Another tip is to be realistic. If there’s distance involved, be practical about what can be done, but don’t accept a deal you don’t want to follow. People make these terms every day, so you should be able to as well. Finding a good balance in frequency, distance, and duration will be critical in making the best decisions. An attorney or divorce coach should be able to help you keep things realistic.
Find common ground.
Remember that your ex is also the parent of your children, so keep a healthy respect for their rights. Instead of trying to sabotage their happiness through visitation and custody terms, go the opposite way and try to find common ground.
What is it that each of you want in an agreement? How can you adjust your terms to give the other parent what he or she wants? How can he or she make adjustments to help give you the time you want with the kids? Finding that middle ground can seem impossible at times, but even in the highest conflict situations, negotiation is possible.
Know that you have help.
Finally, know that you have help. Friends or family members who have gone through this process can offer their experience or advice. Talk with a certified divorce coach, counselor, or attorney about how to proceed. Divorce coaches will often sit down with both parents and begin talking through problem areas or mapping out the options for settlement.
Don’t forget that although the internet can give you an overwhelming amount of information, finding a good source of information online can prove handy in figuring out how to negotiate terms of visitation and custody rights with your children. The internet can also be a helpful place to find a community of people who have been through the same situations. Find a forum or online community where you can discuss your questions and concerns with those who have experience in what you’re going through.
By following these tips, you’ll get a head start with mapping out the best decisions for everyone involved, especially your children. Remember to try and keep your personal emotions to a minimum when making important decisions about your kids. Also keep in mind that you’re only one of many who have been through this process and that you can work with your ex to set up the best possible situation for your children. Best wishes for a successful plan for your family's future.