You had a child with someone – you were married, you lived together, you just dated. But you do share a child with your former spouse, lover, friend. Chances are high that there will arise disagreements regarding parenting time and decision making (custody) matters. This can happen at the outset or even years after the original order or agreement.
When a disagreement arises between parents, it can be easier to secure a satisfactory outcome when you can negotiate successfully.
How to negotiate
The following tactics can be effective for parents navigating custody disagreements.
- Do your homework. Before negotiations, talk to a lawyer about your options. Know well your child’s schedule and any conflicts your ex might have. Being prepared is crucial to a successful negotiation because it helps with managing expectations and possible solutions.
- Know what you want and what you are willing to give up. Compromise can be a big part of a negotiation. Thus, you should know what you absolutely will not give up and where you are willing to be more flexible. Knowing where your lines are from the beginning can help you get what you want without giving up too much. But always focus first and foremost on your child’s developing needs.
- Listen to the other person. Negotiation is as much about listening to what the other person says as it is about talking about what you want. Listen to what they want and where they are willing to give; ask questions to help you understand their perspective. Not only is this a show of respect, but it also allows you to identify key points.
- Keep your emotions in check. Losing your temper or being unreasonable to punish the other person can quickly derail discussions about your child. While this is undoubtedly an emotional process, level heads and some objectivity can help you get through it more easily.
These and other negotiation tactics can help you get what you want out of a complicated process.
What if negotiations are impossible or unproductive?
It is possible that negotiating parenting issues (custody and access) with your ex is not feasible. You may be unable to agree because of the complexity of a situation or because one or both parties are unwilling to compromise.
Under these circumstances, it is important to explore with your lawyer alternative dispute resolution modalities, including court.
Remember though that avoiding conflictual litigation can be favorable for many reasons. Working on your negotiation skills can improve the chances of resolving a dispute yourselves.