Separation is a very difficult situation for many people. Add children to the mix, and the emotional toll on separating parties (not to mention the children) can be significant. However, those emotions can sometimes cause people to make decisions or behave in a way that is not beneficial to their case or to their children.
We at MBA Lawyers thought it might be helpful to share a selection of our top tips for parents who find themselves in this situation. These are:
Try to avoid talking to the children about the litigation/conflict
Unfortunately, too many parents engage the children in adult conversations and topics. A parent’s denigration of the other or involvement of the children in the litigation, often leaks out in the course of proceedings. Allegations can be made that a child has been coached by one parent. More seriously, in our view, are that the discussions can have a negative impact on a child’s emotional state when they are already dealing with their parents’ separation.
Sometimes this is unavoidable, especially if the other parent makes comments to the children that the other parent has to respond to, or where the separation is fresh, and of course something needs to be said to explain the change of circumstances. If the children are older and want to discuss the situation, we suggest this be done with the assistance of a counsellor. If a child is really struggling, especially a younger child, then parents should consider engaging the child in therapeutic counselling with a child psychologist;
Try to look for areas of agreement when considering the children’s care arrangements.
Unless there are allegations of risk of harm to the child, or where there are significant practical difficulties with proposed arrangements (such as parents’ locations, children’s ages, work commitments etc), there are some fairly standard arrangements that can work for most parents and children. Of course, arrangements will be determined on the basis of every individual case.
Legal fees can accrue very quickly where parties are simply unable to make concessions (sometimes for no good reason). Remember – you will be co-parenting for the rest of your child’s life, so the sooner you try to get along, the better (within reason of course, depending on the circumstances).
Remember that the roadmap has changed
Many parents struggle with the fact that some arrangements that were in place whilst the relationship was intact simply won’t work now that they have separated. This also applies to decisions that need to be changed, such as choice of school, the children’s routines and so on.
Within reason, try to encourage the children’s relationship with the other parent.
Unless there are issues relating to domestic violence, risk of harm and so on, in a litigated matter, the Court will consider whether a parent is facilitating the child’s relationship with the other parent. This is one of many factors a Court will consider, but it is a particularly important factor when looking at the longevity of the co-parenting relationship and the damage that can be done to that relationship with a hostile mindset.
Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice tailored to any person’s individual case. However one of our highly skilled family lawyers, Joelene Seaton or Aleena Mills, will be able to provide advice that is unique to your matter. Please don’t hesitate to contact our office to arrange an appointment if you require assistance in this area.