While some parents are able to communicate and negotiate the matter of child custody during a divorce, others need help. Before California parents throw in the towel and let the court decide everything for them, they could use mediation to work out their differences. However, they should never go into mediation without being prepared.

The first thing that divorcing parents need to do is approach their mediation meetings with a willingness to listen and open minds. This allows the mediator to help them brainstorm options until a solution is found. Then, the parents are able to mutually agree on a parenting plan. Mediation usually does not work when one or both parents believe there is only one option or they are not open to compromise.

The parents need to keep in mind that the mediation sessions are no place for them to bring up their problems. Rather, they are a means for them to solve their parenting issues and communicate about the needs of their children. This might include how their anger toward one another makes their children feel or one parent not providing the structure and routine that the children need. It is also beneficial if the parents think about and write down their proposals prior to the meetings. This ensures that they do not forget to talk about the things that are important to them. Having a sense of humor and balance is beneficial in mediation as well, particularly when the sessions become tense. Since this may be one of the hardest tips to follow, the parents simply need to remember why they are in mediation and take a break if they need to.

Going through a divorce is not easy for any couple, whether or not they are able to communicate and negotiate. Although mediation helps a majority of parents come to an agreement about child custody, it does not work for every couple. In such cases, the parents could ask lawyers to advocate what they want for their children following the divorce.