Divorces are rarely clean and easy. Add children to the mix, and divorces can get downright messy. This is particularly true when both parents want primary custody and both parents think they're doing what's best for the children. Unfortunately, messy divorces—and custody battles—usually end up hurting the children parents are trying to protect. If you're in the process of a divorce, and you're dealing with custody issues, you and your spouse need to work together to do what's best for your kids. Here are four simple steps you can take to keep the battle out of custody negotiations.
Work with a Mediator
It's not easy to sit down and work out a custody arrangement that works for both parents. The first thing you need to remember is that the needs of your children must take precedence over yours. The best way to ensure a successful custody arrangement is to sit down with a mediator. Mediators are trained in providing one-on-one assistance in dealing with custody arrangements. They'll sit down with each of you individually so that they can understand what your desires are. Once they know where both of you stand, they'll work on strengthening the areas of agreement to help you reach a custody arrangement that works for you and your children.
Agree to Compromise
This is important. You need to be willing to compromise with your spouse. You both want what's best for your kids. Don't be rigid in your requirements for a custody agreement. If you both want weekends, try to reach an agreement where you split weekends by the month. This will ensure that both of you get one full month of uninterrupted weekends at a time. Being willing to compromise can eliminate much of the stress associated with custody negotiations.
Keep Communication Open
You can't negotiate a custody arrangement if you aren't communicating with your spouse. You've got to keep the lines of communication open. If you and your spouse reach a point where you're no longer communicating, sit down with a mediator or a counselor to see whether you can work out the issues. Keeping the lines of communication open will also help prevent problems once the custody arrangements are in place.
Agree to Revisit Custody Arrangements as Needs Change
While you're working out the terms of your custody agreement, it's important that you consider the possibility of change—including your child's changing needs. Your custody agreement may work perfectly now, but it might not work once your child gets older and is involved in extracurricular activities. Make an agreement to revisit custody issues as your child's needs change. This will prevent misunderstandings if one of you requests a modification later.
Custody negotiations don't have to turn into long, drawn-out battles. Use the tips provided here to keep your custody negotiations on amicable terms. If problems arise, be sure to talk to your family-law attorney. They can help you through the process.
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