Top tips for successful co-parenting after separation24-March-2022 Family Law By Simone Green
Family separation is never easy, especially when children are involved. One thing that most parents will agree on is that exposure to ongoing parental conflict is damaging to their children. Judges hearing parenting cases are required by the law to have the best interest of the child as the paramount consideration, above all other things, when making parenting orders. It is therefore essential, that any arrangements for the care of children are child focussed and reduce any potential for exposure to family violence.
Streeterlaw’s Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer Simone Green shares some tips on how to successfully navigate the potential minefield of post-separation parenting without resorting to Court.
- Respectful, clear and effective communication with the other parent.
- Never make care arrangements or address any negative issues in front of the children or ask the children to deliver messages between the parents. This creates additional stress and anxiety for children.
- Where possible, communicate all arrangements and notifications in writing via email or text. The use of parenting Apps can be very helpful to keep a record of any agreed schedules for the children and as a means of communication about anything concerning the children.
- Keep the tone and nature of the communication respectful. Text and email with the thought that whatever you write may be read in Court one day!
- If it is not possible to avoid conflict during changeover of time with the children, consider minimising the number of face-to-face changeovers by collecting or delivering the child at day care or school (where possible) or in a public place, such as McDonalds. Changeovers via third parties such as friends, or grandparents may be a short-term option but not sustainable in the long term.
- Do not speak badly about the other parent in the presence or hearing of the children and do not post negative comments about the separation on social media. This can damage a child’s relationship with the other parent and have lasting psychological impacts on the child.
- While it is important to listen to the child, avoid overreacting to information shared by the child when in the care of the other parent without first discussing it with the parent or verifying the accuracy of the information. Children may play one parent against the other for their own advantage. For instance, ‘but Dad lets me stay up late and eat lollies at his house’.
- Consider both parents engaging in a post separation parenting course such as those run by organisations such as Relationships Australia which assist parents to guide their children through the challenges of separation and avoid parental conflict. These courses are often ordered by the Courts and have very positive feedback from participants.
- Make a parenting plan
A parenting plan is a written agreement signed by each parent setting out the agreed care arrangements for their children. Not everyone needs parenting orders and parenting plans offer greater flexibility as the children grow to reassess what is working and what is not. Consider engaging a parenting co-ordinator or family dispute resolution practitioner (mediator) to assist you to make a parenting plan. A successful parenting plan will set out very clearly who is to do what and when. Problems arise when there is ambiguity.
- Be flexible for the sake of the children (where possible and within reason)
If there is an important event or family celebration that will occur during the time that the child is with the other parent, consider allowing the children to attend. Make-up time can be requested if necessary. The gesture may be reciprocated when you need it.
- Consider allowing the other parent to attend sporting or other extracurricular activities, school events and the like that occur during time that parent’s time with the child. Where this is problematic, consider alternating attendance at such events, or in the very least, maintain a respectful distance and avoid confrontation. Remember, it is about reducing stress and anxiety for the child. A child will always benefit from seeing their parents co-existing in the same place successfully.
- Be realistic with expectations
Particularly with very young children, it is unreasonable to expect a child to cope with long periods of block time away from the primary caregiver, or from either parent.
On the other hand, it is reasonable to expect that the child will need to spend some overnight time with the other parent provided that it is safe to do so and age appropriate.
- Any telephone or video communication must be reasonable to a child’s developmental age. For instance, requiring a 3-year-old to spend a set amount of time on the phone or video chat to the other parent each day may result in disappointment if the child is unable to maintain interest, or quite simply refuses.
- When things go wrong – contact a Family Dispute Practitioner (mediator)
The Court (with certain exceptions for Family Violence or urgency) will not allow parents to make a parenting Application without first having attempted to mediate the dispute with an accredited family dispute practitioner.
Parents may undertake free mediation via the Government funded Family Relationships Centres in many locations across Australia. There are also many excellent, private mediation services available for parents who need to mediate sooner.
Was this post helpful?
Need help with resolving or preventing a dispute?
Request a call with one of our experienced solicitors now!