10/14/2014 12:16 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

Tools for a Successful Parenting Arrangement in Divorce

Nothing is more important than your children. If you are involved in a lawsuit involving your children, whether it be a divorce or paternity litigation, often the most difficult issues involve the future parenting arrangement. It is easy to spend a tremendous amount of money and energy battling with the other parent over what is best for your children.

There are a number of different factors and strategies to consider when faced with a child custody dispute. The first thing to do is to find what common ground there is between you and the other parent. Look for things that you can agree on. Who is the pediatrician going to be? What school are they to attend? What activities will they participate in? Who, in addition to the parents, will be allowed to transport them? Often if you can start the discussion with any area where you think you will find agreement, the tone will be set for agreement as to the other more contested issues such as what nights they will spend with each parent.

If there is little common ground and the communication between the parents has become heated, you may wish to involve a child custody evaluator. That is a person with a mental health background who is trained in interviewing children and parents and can identify potential problem issues between the parents which would be harmful to the children. Often in contested child custody cases, the court will order this type of evaluation. Instead of waiting until the negotiations have fallen apart and each side hires its own expert, consider jointly retaining someone with those skills to be a neutral adviser on what general arrangement would be best for your children.

If, after seeing the results of a child custody evaluation, you are still unable to reach a detailed parenting agreement, a parenting coordinator may be helpful. This person not only has a background in mental health, but is trained in working with separated parents in the many small details of the day to day schedules of children.

A final step may be to involve a child custody mediator. Typically this person will be a neutral attorney, but many states allow mental health professionals to fill this role. This mediator will assist the lawyers and the parents in trying to reach an agreed upon arrangement that is in the best interests of the children and acceptable to the parents. The mediator will be the neutral person who is aware of what might happen in court under the facts of your particular situation and can go back and forth between the parents to move each one to a middle ground.

With these tools, you can greatly increase your chances of coming to a workable agreement for children's timesharing, school decisions and medical decisions with the other parent as well as setting up a format to deal with future disagreements. You can greatly decrease your chances of causing a scene with the other parent when you both attend your child's wedding years from now.

To learn more about family law, please contact Stann at Givens Givens Sparks, a law firm based in Tampa, Florida.