9 Key Questions To Ask Before Negotiating Child Custody In Your Divorce

Parenting is a one-shot deal. As a 10-year veteran of divorce, my former husband and I have made it our goal to keep our children the focus, despite our own differences and troubles. When we negotiated our divorce settlement, we keyed-in on the fact that we only had one chance to get it right in raising our son (who was then 9 years old) and daughter (who was then 7 years old).

The goal, in divorce, should always be to make the situation better – or at least reasonably comfortable -- for everyone in the family.

I can tell you from my own personal experience, and 13 years as a Virginia Supreme Court Certified Divorce Mediator, former divorce attorney, and family court hearing officer:  Divorce does not have to be a tragedy for your children.

To successfully negotiate custody in your divorce, you will need to ask yourself and ponder some very important questions.

You will need to ask yourself what is really best for your children for both the immediate time frame and for your child’s future well-being. You need to start thinking in these terms before you begin your custody negotiations so you can think of terms of broad goals, albeit flexible goals, and a variety of options for reaching those goals.  This is true whether you engage the services of a divorce lawyer or a mediator.

9 Key Questions Divorcing Parents Need to Ask Before and During their Child Custody Negotiations:

  1. What unique traits, knowledge, values and skills do I have to offer my children?  What about my children’s other parent?  
  2. What qualities do I believe are necessary to “be a good parent?”  Do I have most of those qualities?  What about my children’s other parent?  
  3. Do I see myself as the better parent for children of certain ages and developmental stages? What about my children’s other parent?
  4. Do my children have special activities that they like to do with me, alone?  Their other parent?  
  5. Will I need help from my children’s other parent, in terms of child caretaking, once living separately? Will my children’s other parent also need help?  (e.g., due to work demands, work travel, “juggling” children’s activities, etc.)
  6. What do I believe are the benefits, specifically, of my children having a rich and stable relationship with both Mom and Dad? What would be the harm, specifically, if they did not?
  7. Am I able to let go of control when my children go to stay with their other parent?
  8. When there is a parent who has only been minimally involved in his or her children’s life, is there reasonable potential for that parent to become more involved?
  9. Is there potential for compromise in parenting decisions?

If two loving parents exist, why not make the most of it? Children get a stronger sense of security, love, expanded world views, skills, knowledge, extended family, role models and sense of self.  And you get children to have and to hold--and to love.

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