The backbone of a child custody arrangement is the parenting plan. It provides all of the information the parents need to handle situations that might come up during the child's life. This plan should be as detailed as possible, but it should also provide some flexibility for the terms so that the children have what they need to thrive.
One of the most trying issues that parents going through a divorce have to deal with is coming up with the terms of this plan. The mediation process can be helpful when working out these terms, but you still need to make sure that you are prepared for what's to come. Here are some suggestions to help you:
Make a list of the issues
If there are any issues about which you feel strongly, you should make a list of these before you head in for the first negotiation session. Use your list as your guide to help you stay on track when you are trying to work things out. Remember to focus on the big issues instead of the small ones so that you aren't wasting your time on meaningless aspects of the plan.
Be willing to think creatively
There aren't always easy answers to the issues that come up in these cases. You must be willing to consider options that you might not have previously considered. Creative solutions to child custody can help to make the situation work for the children. This is especially important if you don't have a set schedule at work or a child who has special needs.
Put the children first
Putting your children first during the negotiations can help things move along. You can't let your focus move toward trying to make things more difficult for your ex. Try to think about how each decision you make will affect the kids. If there are multiple options that are available and appropriate, you might want to ask the children for their input if they are old enough to participate.
Plan for disagreements
At some point during your child's life, you and your ex will likely disagree on something. When this happens, you should have a protocol already outlined in the parenting plan so that you can turn to it for guidance about what to do. When there are disagreements that can't be handled in this manner, you might have to head back to the negotiating table or to court to get the matter settled.