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Dispute over summer plans? Learn to mediate visitation conflicts

Dispute over summer plans? Learn to mediate visitation conflicts

Whenever you're co-parenting with someone you're no longer in a committed relationship with, issues can arise about what activities you would each like the children to be involved in, whether one parent can take the kids on an extended vacation, and who is going to pay for what. While many issues can be negotiated in advance of getting your legal child custody and visitation order, life can be unpredictable.

For example, one woman wrote in to a Huffington Post blogger who writes about family law and mediation to ask about how to resolve a dispute over her summer camp for her 10-year-old son. Divorced for two years and with shared legal custody, the woman was frustrated because her ex-husband told their son that he could attend an expensive, out-of-state sleep-away camp.

The couple's visitation order spelled out that the dad would pay 60 percent of any summer camp costs, but that doesn't mean the camp would be affordable for the mom. More important, however, is that the mom opposes the sleep-away camp because she believes her son is too young. Since her ex had already proposed it to their son, however, he was begging her to attend.

The blogger recommended the mom try some mediation techniques to resolve the conflict.

The first steps in mediating conflicts are to identify your real interests in the situation and those of your ex. In this case, mom should write down all the reasons she opposes the sleep-away camp -- even those that seem unreasonable. Ideally, this should give her insight into the real basis of her opposition.

If willing, her ex could do the same -- providing her with a list of his motivations, both reasonable and unreasonable. If he’s not willing, she should try to create that list herself, although it’s harder to gain insight that way. Since her son is 10 and begging to go, she might consider doing the same with him.

Once each person’s interests have been identified, the next step is to sit down together, if possible, and brainstorm at least three alternatives that could achieve the majority of those goals and minimize the impact of any that can’t be accommodated.

Raising children is challenging for everyone, and clear, positive communication that respects the interests of each person can help any set of parents and children. The key is not to think of your visitation order as a blueprint, but as a list of a few things that are mandated by the court.

Source: Huffington Post Blog, "Mediating Your Summer Camp Squabbles," Diane L. Danois, J.D., May 13, 2013

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