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How to Successfully Negotiate Your Parenting Plan – Legal Reader

You’ll need to agree to some things that don’t fit with the ideal plan of your life with your kid, but so will your co-parent.
Couples facing divorce can struggle through numerous negotiations during the process. And, if they’re parents, they also have to negotiate on a parenting plan. There are numerous issues to be covered and both sides will have to ensure that they agree with every decision included in the plan. 
Here’s how to create and negotiate a successful parenting plan:
Work with a Lawyer
If you don’t know where to start, you can always seek family law mediation advice from an experienced family law attorney. In fact, working with an expert can help you in drafting a successful parenting plan and help in negotiating with your ex-partner much more easily.
They have knowledge of child custody law in your specific location, as well as plenty of real-world experience as to what works and what doesn’t in terms of creating a flexible and forward-thinking parenting plan. 
You don’t want to end up in court every few months over disagreements about your parenting plan because it wasn’t flexible or designed to last. Working with an expert lawyer at the start and throughout the process is the best way to avoid this. 
Furthermore, a good lawyer can also help in protecting your rights if your ex-partner refuses to compromise or violates the terms of the parenting plan. 
Create a Detailed Parenting Plan
To increase the chances of successful negotiations, it’s important to start by creating a well-detailed parenting plan. Your family lawyer can help you in drafting a parenting plan, but it’s still up to you what parenting schedules and conditions to set. It’s important to make sure that the parenting plan discusses the specifics about with whom your child or children will be staying, when, and for how long. 
You also want to plan for lots of different scenarios that may arise. 
For instance, what happens if your ex-partner has an important event coming up during their parenting schedule and wants to hire someone you don’t know to babysit?  In this case, you might recommend giving your child back to you until the other parent returns. If your parenting plan doesn’t discuss situations like this, then you might not have much ground to stand on. 
In addition, you also want to prepare visuals as necessary. Clear visuals can help you easily and quickly explain your ideas to your ex-partner. You can include visuals in your parenting plan such as:
Calendars showing when each parent can have their child, including special events, like birthdays and holidays
Options for parenting plan provisions
Parenting time reports or graphs showing how much each parent would have their child 
Be Calm and Polite
Once it’s time to discuss and negotiate the parenting plan, you want to be calm and polite all the time. Regardless of what your feelings may be about the divorce, it’s important that you keep your parenting plan negotiations as peaceful as possible. Otherwise, you’ll just waste your time, and no concrete plan will be made. 
Also, negotiation isn’t a speedy process since you and the other parent will need to discuss and nitpick every scenario and condition. That said, not cooperating or bickering won’t help move it along any faster. So, always stay calm and remain polite throughout the whole negotiation. Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you. Stay focused on getting this done for your kids. 
If you think you’re about to explode, ask for a break and take a few minutes to go outside and breathe. Once you’re calm, you can go back, and this allows you to discuss where you left off more clearly.

Woman and two children on a park bench; image by Benjamin Manley, via Turns Listening and Speaking
Negotiating means a discussion between you and your co-parent. You might have several things to say, but so is the other parent. So, take turns listening and speaking to each other. 
Now, when it’s your turn to speak, be straightforward and articulate as possible. Speak without being offensive or accusatory. Consider talking to the other parent the way you’ll speak to your boss or a business associate. 
When it’s your turn to listen, make sure to listen carefully and give them your full attention. Don’t reply in haste or cut them off. Consider what the other parent has to say, and then respond. 
Be Open to Compromise
There’s a high chance that not all your schedules and conditions will be met by the other parent, and vice versa. 
Thus, you need to be ready to compromise. The core principle of a compromise is that you have to give up some things you want to get what you really want. And, compromise will and must always exist in every negotiation. 
When negotiating the details of the parenting plan, keep in mind that this process is, first and foremost, all about the best interests of your child, and not what’s best for you or the other parent. 
That said, you’ll need to agree to some things that don’t fit with the ideal plan of your life with your kid, but so will your co-parent. As long as you both prioritize the wellbeing and emotional health of your child over any issue between you, your parenting plan will be able to strike a balance that works for every party involved, even if that’s not what you want. 
Take Away
Creating and negotiating a parenting plan isn’t going to be easy. Since each parent has different ideas, negotiating using the above tips can help both parents to come up with a successful parenting plan that benefits all parties involved, especially the kids. 

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