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Tips For Parents Negotiating a Parenting Plan

Updated on February 19, 2012

The family courts would rather have divorcing parents create a basic parenting plan together, because it shows that the parents are working together for the children’s best interest. While divorce can be an emotionally wrenching time and it may be hard for divorcing parents to hold productive conversations, it’s essential for the children’s needs.

Using several negotiating techniques effective in the business world, it’s possible for the parents to come together on their children’s behalf and negotiate a parenting plan that outlines how they will raise their children.

Children need stability and routine to develop trusting relationships with both parents.
Children need stability and routine to develop trusting relationships with both parents. | Source

Define the Parenting Goals

Before parents begin negotiations on a parenting plan, they need to identify what their common goals are when it comes to parenting their children. A family court is more likely to approve a parenting plan that shows a child-centered approach rather than a parent-centered one.

Some of the best parenting plan goals include:

1. Children will be supported by both parents in all areas, from school to discipline

2. Children will be encouraged to maintain relationships with both parents as well as extended family members

3. Children will be allowed to remain in the same home or area as before the separation, including neighborhood, school and friends

Tips for Successful Negotiation

When parents begin negotiating a parenting plan, there are several things they can do to ensure more productive communication. There may be a lot of pain and anger associated with the separation, but as long as the parents can keep the discussions centered on the children, there’s a better chance of successful negotiations.

Here are a few tips from professional negotiators that parents can use when negotiating custody schedules and parenting plans:

1. Prepare yourself with as much background knowledge as possible. Knowing what their state laws are on child custody and understanding about child development can help parents present their points with expert opinions to back them up.

2. Don’t get emotionally involved. Parents who avoid personal attacks on each other and approach negotiations calmly and rationally will engage in better communication than parents who are highly emotional.

3. Listen with an open mind. Parents who start negotiations with no intention to compromise will not have any success in creating a parenting plan that works. When one parent listens to the other to gain understanding, it’s possible to negotiate a compromise from that position.

4. Ask for more than is expected. Parents can present their ideal options to each other, and then find the common ground upon which to agree on. Being flexible on some points sends signals to each other that both sides are willing to compromise for the children’s benefit.

5. Be open and honest. Parents who avoid exaggeration and embellishment when negotiating a parenting plan can get to the heart of each topic more quickly and therefore come up with realistic resolutions that will lead to success. Clouding the issues with drama and overstatements makes it harder to get to the true solutions.


When negotiating custody schedules and parenting plans, both parent must remember that family courts want to see documents that show the children will receive the love and support of both parents. Parents who can reasonably compromise are well on their way to working out a fair and balanced parenting plan that benefits the children.


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