Successful co-parenting with your former partner can be tricky to achieve and may involve a period of negotiation and compromise before finding an agreeable solution. In some cases, you may not achieve a mutually agreeable solution on your own and in this instance, there are several options available to protect what matters most; the wellbeing of your shared child or children.
It is common during separation and divorce for the separating parties to harbour negative emotions towards each other. These feelings can make agreeing on terms of the separation, particularly the care of your shared child/ren, difficult or sometimes impossible.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a written agreement which outlines how you and your former partner will co-parent your shared child/ren. It can detail a range of things, such as where the child/ren will live, where they will go to school, which parent will provide care and when, what will happen on special holidays and birthdays and how a child will communicate with their parents. The plan can also detail agreed-upon parenting styles, a particular faith/religion that will be taught at home and any required healthcare plan specific to the child/ren.
A mutually agreed-upon plan can provide structure and routine to a child/ren’s life during what can be a volatile, emotional and distressing time.
Remember, circumstances change and so to can the plan. As children age, their needs and preferences change, so keep communication with your former partner open so that the plan can be revised in future. If needed, set a date to review the plan with your partner so that you can both feel assured that it is always the best solution for your child/ren.
The Family Courts
The Family Law Courts can hand down an order which dictates what parenting arrangements will be in place for a child until they turn 18. While for some, enlisting the Court’s help is the only option for achieving a resolution, it should only be considered a final resort. Receiving a decision from the Court is not only a costly exercise which can be drawn out over a long period of time, but the final order can also feel impersonal for your family, as it is a legal directive, rather than an arrangement that your family have devised together. You give over control to the Court, which is unsuitable for many families.
Before turning to the Courts, there are several support resources available to families.
Before going to court
A family report, prepared by an unbiased third-party professional, assesses the family dynamics, a child/ren’s wishes and their needs to create a recommended parenting arrangement. This report can also be submitted as evidence to a Court if the situation demands a Court decision.
A family dispute resolution mediator can also act as an unbiased voice of reason between yourself and your former partner. Unlike the Court, a mediator will work with all affected parties to determine the best solution, rather than handing down a legal directive.
Utilising a mediation professional is also an opportunity for both parents to discuss their wishes and concerns regarding their child/ren’s relationship with their other parent and the future, without needing to converse directly with their former partner, which could potentially start an emotionally-fuelled argument.
The most important thing
No matter which solution you turn to, it is important to remember that your main concern should always be the health and happiness of your child/ren. During a separation or divorce, when emotions are running high, parents can often fall into the trap of letting their negative emotions towards their former partner restrict the possibility of reaching a solution which is best suited for the child/ren.
It is important that children feel loved, supported and safe as the family transitions after separation. Never argue with or speak negatively of your former partner in front of the child/ren. While you should keep communication with your child/ren open and encourage them to discuss their feelings openly with you, never ask them to pick sides or make a final decision regarding their living arrangements.
Whilst family and friends may give you advice and mean well, it should not replace the sound and pragmatic advice of a family law specialist. The danger with this is that the legal system is complex and how you conduct yourself is important. A wrong turn with how to handle certain important situations can be disastrous, not only for the objectives you want to achieve but could also have a negative impact on your children. We guide clients through post-separation issues by being upfront about the things that might cause unnecessary dispute. Similarly, we provide clear advice when needed on when a firm approach is needed to protect what matters most.
Shannon Daykin, Daykin Family Law’s Director, is an Accredited Family Law Specialist, with a wealth of experience and expertise in family law and parenting agreements. Contact us today to discuss all your options in order to achieve a positive solution as efficiently as possible.