Throughout history, leaders have often discovered--often tragically--what the opposite of negotiation is. It's been said that when there's no negotiation, when there's no talking and when there's no agreement, then there's war. When it comes to your children, war is not what you want. You'll want to negotiate.
When marriage ends and war begins, children can be caught in the middle. No one should be surprised to hear that children suffer when their parents fight. Studies have found that the bitter fighting of parents harms children more than the divorce itself. Finding a way to avoid litigation--and the fighting that often comes with it--can spare your children the drama. An alternative dispute resolution method such as mediation offers a way to stay out of the courtroom.
What is mediation?
In mediation, both spouses meet with an independent mediator who is trained to facilitate the divorce process. The mediator will keep the communication flowing while offering ideas that can help the spouses arrive at an agreement--one they make together, rather than a judge deciding things for them. The benefits of mediation include easing the emotional toll for all the participants, as well as reducing the time and money involved and improved communication. Often, parents learn improved communication skills from the mediation process that can help with their future co-parenting interactions.
The children's best interests
When negotiating during mediation, 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: Know the California child custody laws and have an attorney that values mediation.
- Take a deep breath: Don't let your emotions get the best of you. Be calm, polite and respectful.
- Be open: Being open to ideas other than the ones you came in with; your flexibility will help you reach a workable agreement for your family.
- Carefully suggest the rules: If you propose rules that make life difficult for the other parent, chances are these same rules will end up being difficult for you as well. That would be karma sneaking up behind you.
- Stick to your plan: Communicate when something comes up or family circumstances change; otherwise, you'll want to follow the agreed-upon plan. A helpful site for co-parenting, OurFamilyWizard.com offers tools for coordinating custody schedules, splitting expenses and sharing your children's health records.
The ancient Chinese book of military strategy, The Art of War, offers some relevant advice, "The greatest victory is that which requires no battle." Designed to reduce the bitterness of fighting, mediation can help focus on what's best for your children--which is what you really wanted from the beginning.