Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: How to Negotiate with a Reasonable Co-Parent
Negotiation is a vitally important means of saving time, money, and aggravation when trying to figure out what is best for children—both in court and out of court. The less willing people are to negotiate, the more you will be surrounded by important (and often expensive) court appointed professionals. Negotiation is an opportunity to reach common ground in an atmosphere that is more civilized and gentle than the combative and competitive arena of high-conflict litigation. In simple, practical terms, it never hurts to try to negotiate when it comes to the best interests of your children.
Here are some proven tips for successfully negotiating custody, visitation, and many other aspects of your family or matrimonial case. These points are presented in no particular order, but they are all important.
Know the Costs
Understand that when lawyers and courts are involved, there is a price on negotiating. It costs money to talk through a lawyer, schedule court dates, and so on. Even if you are being represented at no or low cost, indirect costs exist: lost pay for time off, babysitters or childcare, gas and other transportation expenses, and the overall value of your time. Finally, there is the cost to your body and mind that being involved in the stressful atmosphere of negotiations exacts. This can often be the greatest cost.
The flip side of this principle is that there is a benefit associated with closure, or the end of your negotiations. Proceedings have a beginning and an end, and when negotiations are prolonged because of arguments over insignificant details, there is a point of diminishing returns. Stop negotiating when most of the big line items are done. Do not stand on principle. If you choose to stand on principle, be prepared to pay a lot of money for the privilege. For instance, is it really worthwhile to pay lawyer fees of several thousand dollars to add thirty minutes to your side of the visitation schedule?
The best way to help your co-parent be reasonable is by being reasonable yourself. This often translates into being a patient listener. A reasonable attitude can be communicated by restating the co-parent's position before giving your opinion on it. Refraining from exploding with comments like "That's robbery!" or "That is the most unreasonable position I have ever heard" is important. You can convey the exact same sentiment by saying, "I am thinking about what you are asking for, and I do not feel comfortable with it." There is tension and anxiety underneath even the most reasonable negotiations, and these emotions can turn a rational conversation into a free-for-all. When civilized conversation breaks down into a shouting match early on in any negotiation process, great damage is done to the process as a whole. That is because the negotiating parties will always be expecting the process to deteriorate back to that point. Another way of saying this is that there will be no trust. If you feel yourself becoming too tired or too tense to maintain a civil demeanor, take a break and rest.
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