With around 48% of divorces involving children under 18 years old in Australia, creating a co-parenting plan that minimises the negative effects of separation for children still living at home is crucial.
Parenting plans can be complex and require patience, understanding and often, a helping hand.
At Daykin Family Law, our expertise surrounding parenting plans and disputes has helped us get recognised as one of Brisbane’s leading lawyers in parenting and children matters in 2023 and prior years.
We’ve used our knowledge and expertise to create a guide that will help you create a parenting plan, tips for some of the best communication strategies, and to help prepare you to navigate any potential challenges.
What Is Co-Parenting? - Meaning And Benefits
Co-parenting can be understood as a shared parenting arrangement where separated or divorced parents work together to raise their children. It involves communication, collaboration, and mutual decision-making, focusing on your children’s well-being and best interests. There are a range of benefits when parents can successfully co-parent including:
- Provides children with stability and a sense of security.
- Reduces conflict exposure, benefiting children’s emotional health.
- Encourages both parents to remain actively involved in their children’s lives.
- Helps children maintain strong relationships with both parents.
When creating a co/parenting plan, it may be best to ensure compliance the Family Law Act (Cth) 1975, depending on your circumstances. Agreements can be recorded in a Parenting Plan under the Act or consent orders, as some examples.
The Legal Framework Of Co-Parenting In Australia
Australia’s approach to co-parenting after separation is governed by the Family Law Act (Cth) 1975, which prioritises the best interests of children in all parenting decisions.
Under this framework, co-parenting arrangements are encouraged as a means to ensure children have meaningful relationships with both parents post-separation when it is safe to do so.
This Act outlines the responsibilities and rights of parents, stressing the importance of children’s safety and emotional well-being.
It advocates for shared responsibilities and duties, focusing on the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.
In Australia, the Family Law Act also supports flexible arrangements, catering to the diverse needs of different family structures.
With this in mind, you’re now ready to create your co-parenting plan.
Guide To Developing A Co-Parenting Plan
The most important step in creating a parenting plan or co-parenting plan is to prioritise the needs and well-being of your children above all else. Every decision and discussion should be centred on what is best for them. To ensure your parenting plan achieves this goal, it’s crucial to approach these conversations with openness and a willingness to understand each other’s perspectives if it is safe to do so. Here are some examples:
Co-Parenting Plan Element
Specifics to Include
Parenting Styles and Values
Travel and Vacations
Financial Responsibilities (see note at the end of this table)
Process for Revising the Plan
For certain financial responsibilities relating to child support to be binding and enforceable, these may need to be recorded in a Limited Child Support Agreement or Binding Child Support Agreement.
Communication Strategies For Successful Co-Parenting
Effective communication stands at the heart of successful co-parenting. It lays the foundation for mutual understanding, problem-solving, and decision-making, all crucial in maintaining a healthy environment for your children. Here are our key strategies to enhance communication in a co-parenting arrangement:
Establish Clear Communication Channels
Decide on the most effective and consistent ways to communicate, be it through emails, texts, or phone calls. Utilising co-parenting apps can also streamline communication, keeping it focused and organised. This is of course on the basis it is safe to do so.
Adopt A Business-Like Tone
Approach communication with a professional and respectful tone can assist. This helps in keeping discussions objective and focused on your children’s needs, rather than personal grievances.
Engage In Active Listening
Make a conscious effort to listen and understand the other parent’s perspective. Acknowledging their views does not always require agreement, but it fosters a collaborative environment.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
Not every disagreement needs to escalate. Determine which issues are worth discussing and which can be let go in the larger interest of your children.
Plan Regular Check-Ins
Schedule regular discussions to review how the co-parenting plan is working and address any emerging issues. This can prevent small problems from becoming larger conflicts.
Utilise Professional Support When Needed
In situations where communication becomes challenging, don’t hesitate to seek help from mediators or counsellors. They can offer guidance and strategies to improve dialogue.
Remember, effective co-parenting communication is not about winning arguments but about working together for the best outcomes for your children. By prioritising respectful and clear communication, you pave the way for a more harmonious and effective co-parenting journey.
Navigating Challenges And Conflicts In Co-Parenting
Handling challenges and conflicts is an inevitable part of co-parenting. If these obstacles are not managed effectively, they can impact not only the parents but also the children involved. Here are some strategies to navigate these difficulties:
- Acknowledge and respect differences in parenting styles and perspectives
- Focus on collaborative problem-solving over dwelling on the problem
- Keep children out of conflicts
- Seek professional guidance when conflicts become unmanageable or safety is an issue
- Develop a conflict resolution plan to handle disagreements
- Regularly review and adjust your co-parenting plan as your situations change
Remember, the goal in co-parenting isn’t to avoid conflicts altogether, but to handle them in a way that maintains respect, focuses on solutions, and prioritises your children’s best interests. By adopting these strategies, co-parents can create a stable and positive environment for their children.
Should I Involve A Lawyer During The Co-Parent Planning Process?
Deciding whether to involve a lawyer during the co-parenting planning process is a significant consideration for many parents. Some of the benefits a family lawyer can bring include:
Lawyers bring an understanding of family law that is crucial in drafting a parenting plan. They ensure that your agreement is not only fair but also complies with legal standards.
Emotions can run high during the planning of co-parenting arrangements. Lawyers provide an objective viewpoint, focusing on the best interests of the children and helping to navigate sensitive discussions.
Ability To Identify Potential Issues
Experienced lawyers can foresee potential problems and address them in the planning stage, which can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts in the future.
For a co-parenting plan to be legally enforceable, it often needs to meet specific legal criteria. A lawyer can ensure that all necessary elements are included depending on how any agreement is to be recorded (such as a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders).
Assistance With Mediating Disputes
If disagreements arise during the planning process, lawyers can engage mediators or liaise with the other parent or lawyer, helping to find amicable solutions that serve all parties involved.
While involving a lawyer in the co-parenting planning process is not mandatory, their involvement can bring legal assurance, clarity, and peace of mind, making the process smoother and more effective for everyone involved.
Other Co-Parenting Resources And Support Systems
While there are numerous counselling services, support groups and educational materials you can use to help navigate co-parenting, below are some links that might help when you feel like you need 3rd party support:
- Relationships Australia provides relationship support services for individuals, families and communities contact
- Australian Psychological Society can provide listings of qualified therapists and psychologists specialising in family matters.
- Family Relationship Advice Line is a national telephone service that helps families affected by relationship or separation issues, including information on parenting arrangements after separation
A suitably qualified family lawyer can help advise on the next steps that need to be taken.
Looking For Help With Your Co-Parenting Plan?
In summary, effective co-parenting requires thoughtful planning, clear communication, and sometimes, the guidance of legal professionals.
By carefully considering each step and seeking the right support, you can lay a strong foundation for a positive co-parenting journey.
If you’re navigating the co-parenting process and need expert legal advice, Daykin Family Law is here to help.