7 Ways to Reach an Agreement on a Parenting Plan

Arguing Over Your Parenting Plan? Here's the Fix You Need

Tired of arguing with your ex about your parenting plan? Next to disagreement about child support and child custody, battles over parenting schedules are one of the most frustrating disputes single moms and dads face. Before you give up, take a deep breath and regroup. No matter how hard it's been up until this point, it is still possible to reach an agreement you can both live with. Ready to give a try? Here are seven ways to collaborate with your ex and reach an agreement on your parenting plan:

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Make a list of your priorities.

Parents arguing about their parenting plan.
Photo © Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images

​Start by making a list of the things that are most important to you. For example, if you really want to spend Christmas morning or Mother's Day with your kids, put it on your list. Think through the entire year, and include all of the dates and occasions that are important to you, such as holidays, birthdays, school trips, and more. This gives you a solid frame of reference for what you value most before you consider negotiating a compromise with your ex.

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Ask questions about what's important to your ex.

Next, have an open conversation with your ex where you find out what he or she values most. Only when you both know what's most important to yourselves and to one another can you start to consider potential compromises and workarounds in relation to your family's parenting plan. If your ex is being extremely difficult and does not want to share his or her list with you, make your own mental list based on past experiences.

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Use evidence to back up your requests.

Many parents overlook this step. Grab last year's calendar and open it up to the dates most important to you. Is there hard evidence there to support your case? For example, if your ex had the kids for Thanksgiving last year, then it's reasonable to expect that it's going to be your turn this year. Similarly, use this year's calendar to map out additional dates that are important to you. For instance, if your kids will be at band camp in June, then you may want to ask your ex to wait until July for his dedicated vacation time with the kids. 

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Concede something your ex wants.

Don't overlook this step, because it's an important one in getting what you actually want. Now that you know what your ex values most, ask yourself if there's something on his list that you really don't care about all that much. For example, perhaps he wants the kids to stay overnight on his birthday. If that date isn't important to you, offer it up as your first point of compromise.

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Swap compromises.

Unfortunately, conceding compromises that matter to your ex, but aren't important to you, isn't going to be enough to get you where you need to be. So the next step is swapping compromises. This is where you both give in something you'd like. If possible, aim for compromises that are relatively equal in value. For example, depending on your kids' ages, birthdays and Halloween may be equally important to both of you.

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Take a break and sleep on it.

At this point in the process, step back and take a break. Not only does this give you the opportunity to sleep on it and reflect on whether you're really okay with the compromises you're considering, but it also does the same for your ex. You might just find that he or she comes back more agreeable than you expected!

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Work with a mediator.

Finally, if you're still unable to reach an agreement about your parenting plan, it may be time to consult with a professional mediator. The trick here is to remember that the mediator's job is to be truly neutral. Even if you're the one reaching out to schedule the appointment, you should expect the mediator to be impartial and focus only on your kids' best interests. If you're having an extremely difficult time agreeing to a parenting plan or schedule for the year, a well-trained mediator can be an invaluable resource.