Nebraska family law statutes require a parenting plan to be developed and approved by the court in all child custody cases. If that doesn’t happen, the judge will create the parenting plan.
We’ve generally found that a parenting plan parties develop themselves through mediation in a divorce or child custody case is more likely to be followed by both parties than one the judge creates. Mediated parenting plans also tend to end up having fewer problems after the court case is over than a judge-made parenting plan.
But, like anything, the success or failure of mediation depends a lot on how you approach it. Following are five things you can do to increase your chances of coming out of parenting plan mediation with an agreement that is best for your child(ren) – and one that you can live with:
1. Drop the baggage.
Any negative feelings you may have about your soon to be ex-spouse or former significant other have no place in mediation. The parenting plan mediation isn’t about you. It isn’t about your ex or your relationship with them. It IS about your children. Put yourself in their shoes.
Based on our experience, most child psychologists, if called to testify at trial, will say that, in most cases, it’s in a child’s best interest to have a full and significant relationship with both mother and father. It’s your job, as a good parent, to help your children achieve that – regardless of your feelings about the other parent.
2. Focus on what matters – your children.
The goal of a parenting plan is to lay a framework for a parenting time structure that will be best for each of your children’s individual needs. This means that you may need to let go of your idea that you must have Christmas day every year, instead of Christmas Eve, or that you must have pick up or drop off at a certain time to accommodate your activities if it means creating a problem with your child’s schedule.
Some of your children’s needs may be inconvenient for you, but may create an opportunity for you to give a little in the mediation process to show that you’re making a good faith effort – and to encourage the other parent to do the same – in the best interest of your children.
3. Be okay with not getting everything YOU want.
Mediation is really a negotiation moderated by a trained and certified parenting plan mediator. In negotiation, the best result is usually one that leaves each party both a little dissatisfied and a little satisfied. Be prepared to accept something less than everything you want. The big win, however, comes with walking out of mediation with a parenting plan agreement that will be best for your children, and will be more likely to be followed by both parties.
4. Come prepared.
It’s important that you’re able to let the mediator know what your concerns are on behalf of your children, and what you see to be your children’s interests. Make a list and bring it to the mediation, along with some ideas about how the parenting plan might address those interests and concerns.
5. Be open and listen.
Even if you think the other parent is as useful as a screen door on a submarine, listen to what they have to say at mediation. They may have a different perspective than you regarding your children. While you may not agree with much they say, they may have some thoughts and ideas that will help develop a parenting plan that will help your children grow up being loved, cared for and having a strong relationship with both parents.
The bottom line in all of this is the goal: developing a parenting plan that will help your children grow into loving, respectful and well balanced adults – which is one thing that both you and the other parent can agree upon.
At Hightower Reff Law, our family law attorneys have helped countless clients through the process of mediating parenting plans. If you need an attorney or a certified family law mediator for your child custody case, we can help.
NOTE: In some cases, such as child custody cases involving domestic violence, substance abuse or mental health issues, mediation may not be appropriate. Or, a special kind of mediation may be warranted.
This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are unique from one another and it is impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.