The answer to this question is dependent on your family’s circumstances, but below are some practical tips which you may find useful:
- Keep it Focussed: make your children the focus of your communication with your ex-partner;
- Don’t Over Communicate: only communicate with your ex-partner if you need to, for example, about issues that relate to pick up arrangements or the welfare of your children;
- Keep it Neutral: Communicate in a neutral manner by reducing (or removing) the use of emotive words or accusations; and
- Be Flexible: Negotiate with the other parent at a mutually convenient time and location to limit distractions and outside stressors.
Give and Take
Co-parenting is a tough skill, but it is definitely achievable. In our experience, good co-parenting involves being flexible and willing to consider the other parent’s point of view. For example, it may be reasonable to consider a request from your ex-partner to spend extra time with the children due to a special occasion. Keep in mind it might be you asking for a similar favour in the future!
We also find that separated parents who are willing to provide assistance when unexpected changes or emergencies occur generally have a better chance of keeping a functional co-parenting arrangement working.
Focus on what is important, and be willing to negotiate on issues that may not be significant to you.
Age of the Child
As a child becomes a teenager, you may need to start considering their wishes and who they want to live with and spend time with.
Teenagers can be tough to handle at the best of times – there is no need to give them an extra advantage because you have separated!
Sometimes teenagers have busy schedules which may involve school activities, extracurricular interests and hobbies, and spending time with their (important!) friends. Sometimes they will place priority on these activities over spending time with a parent.
Our clients tell us that consistency and flexibility are key features of working with older children to implement a workable arrangement so that they spend quality time with each parent. This may involve you spending time with your children whilst they are playing sport or engaged in another activity.
In our experience, the best co-parenting arrangements ensure that child/ren are not directly involved in any disputes between parents, or placed in a situation where they feel they have to ‘choose’ a parent.
There are many organisations who can assist your family to consider your child’s wishes in a neutral and supportive way, such as Family Relationship Centres, Relationships Australia, Anglicare or private psychological counselling service providers.
Reaching Agreement: Non-legal Options
If you can agree how to manage the living and spend time arrangement for your children, you may consider entering into an informal agreement called a Parenting Plan to reflect the terms of your agreement. This may increase the certainty of your spend time arrangements and reduce the opportunity for conflict.
If you cannot reach an agreement regarding living and spend time arrangements, then you have several options available to you which may include:
- Approaching a Family Relationships Centre, including Family Relationships Australia, Anglicare or something similar;
- Engaging in private counselling; or
- Seeking advice from our professional legal team so that you are aware of your legal rights and options.
Reaching Agreement: Legal Options
If you have reached an agreement regarding the living and spend time arrangements for your children, but are unsure whether your ex-partner will adhere to what has been agreed, then you may consider formalising your agreement in the Family Court by filing a Form 11 Application for Consent Orders.
By filing a Form 11 Application for Consent Orders you may secure a Family Court Order in terms of what has been agreed without having to commence legal proceedings.
The main advantage of having a Family Court Order in place is that it is enforceable.
If you are in need of further information or help regarding any of the situations above please call us or complete our quick contact form.