Throughout history, leaders have often discovered—often tragically—that the opposite of negotiation is war. It’s been said that when there’s no negotiation, when there’s no talking and when there’s no agreement, then there’s war. When it comes to your children, we all want what’s best for them. War is not what you want.

Children are often caught in the middle of divorce and child custody battles. No one should be surprised to hear that children suffer when their parents fight. Studies have found that parent’s bitter fighting harms children more than the divorce itself. An alternative dispute resolution method such as mediation offers a way to stay out of the courtroom and avoid the fighting that often comes with it.

What is mediation?

In mediation, both spouses meet with an independent mediator who is trained to facilitate the divorce process. The mediator will keep the communication flowing while you negotiate the issues affecting your family. Mediation enables the two of you to make the decisions—rather than a judge deciding things for you. Often, parents learn improved communication skills from the mediation process that can help with their future co-parenting interactions. Mediation also offers a potentially quicker and less expensive option than litigation.

Working in your children’s best interests

When negotiating during mediation, keeping the interests of your children first and foremost will help to create a plan tailored to your family’s needs. Some tips to help you negotiate the best possible plan:

  • Prepare: Know the Arizona child custody laws and have an attorney that values peaceful resolution.
  • Take a deep breath: Be calm, polite and respectful. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
  • Be flexible: Being open to ideas other than the ones you came in with; your flexibility can help you reach an agreement sooner.
  • Carefully suggest the rules: If you propose rules to make life difficult for the other parent, chances are these same rules will end up being troublesome for you as well.
  • Communicate changes: Communicate when schedules or circumstances change; otherwise, you’ll want to follow the agreed-upon plan. A helpful site for co-parenting, offers tools for coordinating custody schedules, splitting expenses and sharing your children’s health records.

The ancient Chinese book of military strategy, The Art of War, offers relevant advice, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” Designed to reduce the bitterness of fighting, mediation can help you focus on what’s best for your children—which is what you really wanted from the beginning.

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