Teachers face some unique custody challenges when they get divorced. One is the fact that their schedules differ from those of most other working adults. This can strain their parenting plans and custody disputes.
Fortunately, as we noted in an earlier article, Illinois encourages parents to resolve their custody disputes in mediation. Mediation generally gives you more flexibility and control. You get more freedom to address things that might matter to you-such as summer breaks-that don't matter as much to the court. But mediation falls into that same mix of art and science as all forms of negotiation; there are better and worse ways to approach it. Here are four tips that might help you be more successful.
Think about your goals
Unless one parent is clearly unfit, Illinois law generally favors the involvement of both. This means you'll likely need to concede some parenting time to your ex, so what is it that you want from your time? You want to be with your children daily. Establish their routines. Get them to school. See that they eat healthy and make friends. But while such daily concerns are crucial, they can also be exhausting. You and your kids share two months off every year; you want to take advantage of that time, too.
The quality of the time you spend with your children is every bit as important as the quantity. What would your ideal schedule look like?
Be ready to concede some points
Part of thinking about your goals is thinking about how to prioritize them. During mediation, your ex is likely to disagree with you at times. To win the things that are most important to you, you may need to concede in places that aren't as important.
In many ways, your custody mediation is like business negotiation. It's not about winning an argument so much as it's about reaching an agreeable settlement.
Do your homework
As with most things, you get out of mediation what you put into it. If you and your ex can agree on the larger issues, you want to be ready to drill down into the details. There are more than a dozen requirements for an Illinois parenting plan, and you should be ready to address all of them, including:
- The division of parental responsibilities
- A basic parenting time schedule
- Transportation arrangements
- An agreement about parental communication during the other parent's time
- Which address will be used for school enrollment
The parenting plan can also cover more than these things. The law says your parenting plan can include anything "that addresses the child's best interests or that will otherwise facilitate cooperation between the parents."