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Negotiating a parenting plan

When parents in Illinois divorce, both spouses are usually committed to maintaining a strong relationship with their children. This is why discussions about custody and parenting time can often trigger conflict in what might otherwise be an amicable divorce.

A custody battle can intensify the stress and unhappiness that accompanies a divorce. To avoid or at least minimize tensions, parents should be willing to work together to develop a custody arrangement and visitation schedule that works for everyone.

Exes can begin their discussions about parenting time by carefully considering what they personally want from such an agreement. Parents may want to split time evenly, alternate weekends or spend specific birthdays or holidays with their children. Writing a “wish list” before beginning negotiations can often be helpful.

When it comes time for parents to discuss their wishes, both should be prepared to truly listen to each other. If there are points of conflict, parents can avoid escalating the situation by demonstrating a willingness to compromise on some points. For example, parents could agree to alternate specific holidays with the kids.

Other interpersonal communication techniques can also come in handy at this time. If it appears that negotiations may become contentious, parents can opt to step away for a time and reenter discussions after they have calmed down. Another option is to work with a professional mediator who could help the couple address areas of conflict.

Individuals who are considering divorce could also benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. A lawyer may be able to review the client’s case and make recommendations regarding issues regarding asset division, child custody and support obligations.