Mediation is an ideal form of alternative dispute resolution for couples with children. It gives you more control over the outcome and helps you work out compromises to the most pressing issues facing your family.
Even during your marriage, you and your ex probably had trouble agreeing on aspects of your job as parents. Whether one of you had a more lenient attitude than the other or you come from different cultural backgrounds, those discrepancies in parenting attitudes can become much more glaring and problematic after a divorce. Even couples with very different approaches to rearing children can find a way to make things work while everyone lives together.
After the divorce, the difference in approaches will likely become much more obvious, including to the children. Instead of just hoping that everything works out for the best, you can take charge by committing to mediation with your ex. During that process, the two of you can address important considerations for child custody and create a thorough parenting plan.
Focus on what the kids need, not what you want
If you believe that the children should have no more than two hours of screen time a day, but your ex feels like the kids can have unlimited screen time, there will probably be arguments about the issue in the future.
Similarly, if you believe that your children need to maintain a certain grade level to participate in sports or attend extracurricular activities with friends, your ex could undermine you if they don't agree with those standards. Every rule you set should focus more on the best interests of the children than what you want or need.
You and your ex should agree on consistent rules and expectations
Even young children can figure out when their parents don't agree and use that to their benefit after a divorce. Teenagers are particularly good at playing both ends against the middle when it comes to getting permission from parents after a divorce.
Agreeing to specific rules for the family in your parenting plan eliminates the possibility of your children playing you against one another. When both parents share a set of expectations and rules for the kids, it is easier for you both to provide consistent parenting for your family.
Prepare for the unexpected with rules for addressing issues
No matter how thorough you want to be with your parenting plan, something will likely happen that falls outside of its parameters. Committing to reviewing your parenting plan every couple of years with your ex is a good decision.
However, you should also include rules for conflict resolution in your parenting plan. Whether you want to work with a neutral third-party, like a counselor, for future issues or simply need to arrange to communicate in writing at times of elevated emotions, creating an easy-to-follow plan for parenting conflicts is the best way to head off issues before they arise.
Working those details out during mediation will make the divorce proceedings for your family much faster. Instead of needing to set terms, the New Jersey family courts will only need to approve the terms that you and your ex agreed on in mediation.