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Negotiating and Preparing a Parenting Plan in Mediation

Updated on February 28, 2012

Why Mediation?

The process of negotiating a parenting plan is stressful, and sometimes you and the other parent simply cannot agree on key components. In that event, the family court may instruct you to attend a mediation session to work out an agreement concerning how you will raise your children after the divorce.

In mediation, a trained mediator helps two parties communicate over their differences. The better prepared you are for mediation, the more likely you and the other parent will be able to communicate. You can do several things to prepare for mediation and negotiating a parenting plan.

Trained mediators can help you both resolve any issues you cannot agree on, or point out a better solution than either of you thought of.
Trained mediators can help you both resolve any issues you cannot agree on, or point out a better solution than either of you thought of. | Source

Do's and Don'ts for Custody Mediation

One of the keys to any shared parenting or child custody agreement is communication. Both parties need to stay calm during difficult times and keep all lines of communication open. Shutting out the other parent during a fight or difficult time often only escalates the situation and raises tension. This is especially true when discussing pick-up or drop-off times with the other parent.

  • Do focus on the child's needs rather than your own
  • Do think of custody as a separate issue from your marriage problems
  • Do acknowledge your children’s special needs according to their age and temperament
  • Do respect the other parent's strengths in raising your children
  • Do understand that your children need time with both parents
  • Do go to your mediation session prepared with solid ideas for custody schedules and parenting plans
  • Do go to your mediation session ready to compromise and negotiate
  • Do not focus on your own preferences at the expense of your children


  • Do not bring up child support or issues that caused your marital problems
  • Do not accept the other parent’s parenting plan without any negotiation
  • Do not allow your emotions to cloud your mind as you negotiate
  • Do not seek to punish the other parent by refusing to compromise
  • Do not go to the session without preparing a parenting plan for mediation
  • Do not go to the session without preparing a custody schedule for mediation

Prepare Your Own Plans

Many parents find it advantageous to create their own parenting plan and custody schedule to bring with them to mediation. Preparing a parenting plan for mediation lets you get your ideas on paper and gives you and the other parent a starting point for discussions.

It also gives the mediator a good idea of where you and the other parent are generally in agreement and where you differ. Preparing a custody schedule for mediation can bring the same benefits. Use software such as Custody X Change, which provides you with templates for parenting plans and custody schedule. You can print out both of these to present at mediation.

Above all, you must keep your children’s best interests in mind as you attend mediation. A thoughtful parenting plan is essential in creating a stable and loving environment for your children as you establish new routines after your divorce.

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