It's always best when couples can negotiate a parenting plan for their children with the help of their attorneys rather than taking the matter to court. You know your children better than any judge, so if you can work out a plan that you are both satisfied with and abide by, it will likely be in the best interests of your children -- which should be your goal. Following are some tips for helping you do that.

Remain Calm and Courteous

Discussions around children can get angry and emotional for estranged couples. Do your best to focus on the matter at hand, as you would in a business negotiation. Give your spouse time to voice his or her opinions and listen to them. The calmer you both remain, the shorter time you'll likely have to spend reaching an agreement.

Know the Law

Your attorney can help you be as prepared as possible going into the negotiation. It's essential to be familiar with your state's child custody laws and to use them to achieve the best possible outcome for your children. The more you know, the more confident you'll feel.

Keep an Open Mind

Just because your spouse suggests something you hadn't considered, that doesn't mean it's not a good idea, even if you'd rather not admit it. Be open to ideas that are in your children's best interests. For many people, just knowing that their co-parent is willing to listen to and consider their ideas during a time often fraught with conflict can go a long way to reaching a mutually agreeable plan.

Develop a Plan You Can Stick To

Agreeing on a parenting plan is just the first step. Abiding by it on a regular basis can be challenging. That's why it's important not to commit to things you may not be able to do regularly. Consistency is essential for kids with divorced parents. For your children's benefit and to help maintain an amicable relationship with your co-parent, you both need to commit to following through with the plan unless extreme circumstances intervene.

Developing a parenting plan can be daunting. A family law attorney with experience developing these plans can offer important guidance.