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Tips for negotiating custody, support modifications

Parents know that children can be natural negotiators. They try to get five more minutes of TV or one more snack before bed; they can make surprisingly convincing arguments when they want something like a new phone or a puppy.

On the other hand, negotiating may not come so easily to parents. And when parents are negotiating, the stakes can be high. For instance, you may need to negotiate changes to a child custody or support agreement, as parents often resolve these matters themselves outside of court. Below are some tips for how to get the outcome you want.

  1. Be prepared. You likely know what you want but preparing for a successful negotiation requires more than that. It would be wise to have pertinent documentation, financial information (if you are discussing support), and any details about your child’s needs and changes in circumstances. Organize all your information and have it readily accessible.
  2. Keep your priorities straight. Negotiations can get heated. People can get angry or frustrated; they can let other matters distract them from the issue at hand. To avoid getting off track, set your priorities ahead of time. Make a list of what is most critical, as well as where you are willing to compromise and stick to your priorities.
  3. Actively listen to the other person. There are at least two people involved in every negotiation. Yes, you have your own goals and reasoning, but so does the other person. For negotiations to work, you must listen to each other. Active listening allows you to ease tensions, collect information and show respect, all of which are critical components of negotiations.
  4. Find common ground. Even if you suspect that you and the other parent disagree on everything, it is critical to find common ground. Doing so creates an anchor point that you can use to start your negotiations. For instance, you may not see eye-to-eye on how to change your parenting plan, but you could both agree that the existing order is not working.

Negotiation skills can be critical when it comes to resolving family legal disputes. With these tips and the guidance of your lawyer, you can be well-positioned to work out the details of a new agreement that meets your needs and those of your child. 

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