When You Can’t Agree on Parenting Arrangements

When you can't agree on parenting arrangements, consider these tips.

Agreements between co-parents during divorce proceedings can be hard to attain. With emotions at an all-time high and resentments from past arguments brought to the foreground, parents may have difficulties seeing past the storm to create a comprehensive parenting plan together.

Conflict can, unfortunately, become a priority in these situations. While tough to admit, parents finding themselves unwilling to compromise when it comes to their shared parenting arrangements may be placing the needs of their children on the back burner.

When this happens, sometimes the courts must step in and take control over the creation of a parenting plan. However, this is far from ideal. Courts are often incredibly busy and must make a decision about a family in a relatively short amount of time.

Exhaust all options

It’s incredibly important that co-parents exhaust all available options when trying to come to an agreement about their parenting plan. Raising children from separate households is a tough situation to acclimate to.  It’s not surprising that parents sometimes have a hard time seeing the positive in deciding their parenting schedule, expense reimbursement percentages, and other aspects of shared parenting. It’ll often feel like no one is happy with the decisions being made.

Nevertheless, parents should strive to come to those decisions mutually, whether independently or with the assistance of attorneys or through a neutral, third-party mediator. This process may be the most difficult of a divorce, but the effort put into those decisions will help parents put their best foot forward in their new co-parenting relationship.

There are plenty of resources available to parents who are searching for a cooperative approach to their divorce or separation. The collaborative approach to divorce, a process in which both parents agree to forgo court involvement, is a unique solution for families that are committed to keeping conflict to a minimum. Parents can also turn to a professional mediator to assist them in developing their parenting plan. Cooperative approaches to divorce and child custody can not only save parents time and money in the short-term, they can also strengthen the conflict-free environment necessary for truly successful, long-term co-parenting relationships.

Rather than contending with an arrangement created by a relative stranger, co-parents who work together to create a plan that works for everybody begin their co-parenting relationship in a spirit of cooperation. That can go along way in smoothing the adjustment to shared parenting in those first few months.

Court Involvement

Rampant conflict during a divorce or separation can quickly land parents in a courtroom. Besides eating up significantly more funds and time, court involvement when determining child custody can exacerbate already-present conflict. But in particularly contentious cases, conflict can reach a point where the possibility of peaceful and productive co-parenting is greatly diminished.

Whenever determining the particulars of child custody, the judge’s primary directive is creating an arrangement that works in the best interests of the child. Particular state laws and guidelines will also play a role in how child custody arrangements are determined. Search through the OurFamilyWizard Regional Resources for more information about child custody laws in your state.

Custody Evaluations

When communication between parents breaks down completely, or when attempting to come to a mutual agreement is inappropriate for the particulars of a situation, a court-ordered or parent-requested custody evaluation may come into play.

Custody evaluations can help the courts come to a decision about how best to arrange parenting responsibilities after a divorce or separation. They can also assist parents in coming to an agreement without final intervention from the courts as well.

A lot goes into preparing for a custody evaluation, but if there are particular aspects of your shared parenting relationship that you believe need special attention, you should discuss the development of a referral question list with your attorney.

When coming into a custody evaluation, a custody evaluator typically has a general order to determine what is in the best interests of the children. However, specific concerns can be lost in the vast amount of information evaluators must gather and assess.

If there are specific concerns, referral questions can assist the custody evaluator in focusing on those issues more closely. Referral questions must be neutrally worded, so parents cannot attempt to sway the views of the evaluator through the questions they ask. But when relevant, referral questions can help ensure the custody evaluation is effective and addresses all relevant issues for parents.

Court involvement, while not ideal for every situation, can be useful for determining the best arrangement after a divorce in high-conflict cases. But unless circumstances prevent it, parents should first strive to come to an agreement independent of court involvement. Creating a plan together to raise happy and healthy children after a divorce establishes a co-parenting relationship with a strong sense of cooperation and mutual respect. However, if custody evaluation is necessary, parents should prepare for the process and aim to aid the evaluator in understanding the particulars of their family's situation.

More on parenting arrangements


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.