Find out what it means to co-parent in Australia, how it can benefit your child, and some valuable tips to help you manage life after a divorce.
Sometimes relationships break down, and when children are involved, it can make things a little more complex. Generally, it is in your child’s best interest to spend time with both parents. Having both your former partner and yourself actively involved in co-parenting has many benefits. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Co-Parenting?
When couples separate, their children should continue to spend meaningful time with both parents, even if they no longer live in the same residence. Legally after a divorce or de facto relationship separation, both parents have a parental responsibility to independently make decisions about their child until they reach the age of 18. Decisions regarding their child’s welfare and upbringing can continue to be made jointly if desired, including issues such as schooling, health or religion.
Co-parenting does not mean the same things as equal time. Under the Family Law Act, the court will determine custody of your child.
Dealing with a separation can be emotionally draining and highly stressful. Navigating financial issues, new living arrangements and parenting solo can be exhausting.
When separated couples agree to cooperate and share responsibilities when raising their kids, it benefits their children. Co-parenting can work well in many circumstances if both parents establish a plan and routine.
It also succeeds when parents focus on their children’s happiness, well-being and stability, not their feelings about their ex-spouse.
How Does It Benefit Your Children?
Maintaining a happy, stable and healthy environment for your children after a Divorce or Separating is a great way to positively transition into their new schedules and living environments.
Children thrive in a familiar environment. Providing consistency with discipline and similar rules in both households can be beneficial as they know what is expected.
The well-being of the children should be the most critical factor when going through a divorce.
Cooperating with your former partner can be beneficial to your children as they can exist in an environment free from tension or anger. They feel more secure, which ultimately benefits their emotional and mental health. Also, children who see their parents working together can learn how to peacefully solve problems when watching their parents role model good behaviour.
Children succeed and do well when they have a good relationship with their parents, especially when both parents are stable and supportive even if they are no longer together.
Parents who are not in conflict can help ensure that the living environment for the child is comfortable and loving.
What Is A Parenting Plan?
An effective way to manage co-parenting after a divorce is to have a comprehensive, organised plan in place that documents parenting and financial arrangements for your children. The written agreement which clearly defines the steps moving forward for the care of your children is a co parenting plan. You can make it independently or with the help of a mediator or a family dispute resolution practitioner.
There is no need to go to court, which means that you agree that your decisions are not legally binding. If you want your agreement to be legally enforceable, then you can prepare a consent order.
Parenting Plans – What To Include?
You can adapt your co parenting plan to suit your needs and add any details that you feel are relevant. Your information needs to be specific so that it is clearly understood. Concerning timelines, for example, stipulate dates where necessary.
Being without your child on a special celebration day can be difficult for many separated parents. Creating some flexibility within your plan can help parents to adjust. For example, you may want to split special days in half so both parents can enjoy spending time with their children, or alternate days each year may work better for you. It is essential to create a plan that suits your lifestyle and parenting schedule.
You should ensure that you include the following:
- Living arrangements for the children
- Time spent with each parent
- Holidays and special events
- School and education
- Health Care and medical needs
- How to deal with other issues as they arise
It is a good idea to discuss what to do if you need to change the plan, what steps to follow and ways to communicate.
Finding a way to agree after separating from your former partner can be challenging. Joint Child Custody and co-parenting can be infuriating and frustrating. Resolving disputes and issues can help to improve your working relationship with your ex. By cooperating together, you are displaying healthy behaviour that your children can follow.
There are several ways that you can negotiate resolving your disputes with your former partner:
- Informal discussion – if you are comfortable sitting down to a private conversation with your former partner to resolve issues, it is an ideal option as it can save you a lot of time and money.
- Family counsellor – having another person present when discussing family matters may help, whether it is a professional counsellor or a clergyman.
- Mediation – numerous organisations like family relationship centres or community support services provide independent counselling services that help separated families settle their disputes.
- Family dispute resolution practitioner – when separating from your former partner, family law stipulates that you must attempt FDR to resolve your issues without going to family court.
- Parenting orders – if you still can not agree with your former partner, even after attending FDR, then you may need to apply to the family court for parenting orders. Parenting orders are required for urgent cases, mainly where there is a risk of harm to the children. The court will make an order that is in their best interests which will protect children from harm.
You should seek legal advice from family law experts as they are familiar with the dealings of the Family Law Courts of Australia.
Tips For Successful Co-Parenting
Co parenting is a whole new world for couples to navigate, and it can be highly challenging. Finding a way to separate your personal relationship from your co-parenting relationship is the first step to successful shared parenting.
Have a Plan
It is crucial that you develop a parenting plan that works for both parents and adheres to any existing family court orders. It can help ensure that things keep on track, avoid uncomfortable confrontations and be legally binding.
Keep each other updated with your child’s activities, schedule and special events. It is in your child’s best interests if both parents are aware of what is happening in their life. It can also help to ensure that you both can attend important school-related activities like teacher interviews or concerts.
Sometimes plans change. Having a schedule is great, but some circumstances occur where you may need to have flexibility. Compromise and flexibility are effective ways to avoid conflict in your relationship. Allowing changes and going with the flow can be beneficial when you need to make some adjustments to the plan in the future.
Separate Feelings From Behaviour
Indeed easier said than done, but no matter your feelings or emotions, it is essential to listen and show restraint when communicating with your ex-partner, especially in front of your kids. Don’t say negative things about your former spouse to your children. Separate your feelings from your behaviour.
Be prepared for negative feelings when your children spend time at the other parent’s house. It is very normal to feel a sense of loss or loneliness, and a house can become very quiet when the children are not at home. Use this time to recharge and relax.
Don’t Put Your Children In The Middle
Any issues you have with your ex-partner, try to keep them away from your children. Do not use your kids as messengers, pawns or make them feel like they have to choose between their parents. Help them feel connected to their other parent by encouraging communication with them when they are apart and openly discussing their recent visit.
Get Help From A Mediator
Communicating with an ex-partner can be stressful and challenging. Using a trained specialist in mediation can help you overcome disputes and formulate a parenting plan that will work for the whole family.
Keep Your Children As The Focus
In a messy divorce where the separation was not amicable, communication may be strained and uncomfortable. To keep the conversation on track, try to only talk about matters relating to the children. Not only will it avoid arguments, but it will help to keep the other party informed and updated with their child’s well-being. When things get tough, try to focus on maintaining your children’s happiness and future well being.
Aim For Consistency
Consistent rules and routines are beneficial for children. Having a similar schedule and discipline can help kids adjust as they won’t have to manage major changes between households. Similar bedtimes, homework and household chores can help your child adjust to living in two homes.
Help Your Children Anticipate Change
When parents separate, it can be difficult for your child to adjust to moving back and forward between households. Greeting their father means leaving their mother, and it can be traumatic. Helping your child prepare for the swap-over can help make the transition a little easier. Start by assisting them in packing and remembering a special toy or photograph as a familiar reminder. It is a good idea for your children to have some essential clothing and amenities like a toothbrush permanently at both houses. You can remind them of the upcoming visit a day or two before so they can prepare themselves. Also, as parents, try to stay positive and drop them off on time.
Co Parent As A Team
Parenting as a team, making important decisions together, and cooperating can help create a more pleasant and healthy environment for your children. Openly discussing your child’s educational, medical and financial needs and creating a plan that suits everyone can help you all move forward as a family. In most cases displaying your unity as parents can encourage your child to stick within designated boundaries, knowing that both parents are on the same page.
There is less likelihood of a dispute arising if significant decisions have been made together.
Use Open Communication
When Co parenting after separation, an effective communication method must be established between you and your former partner. Using an email instead of a verbal conversation can be effective as it is less likely to end in an argument or conflict.
When communicating with your partner the first step is effective listening. Understanding their point of view and allowing them to express their opinions can be a solid foundation for an amicable conversation. Put aside your relationship issues when communicating, as it will help maintain your focus and clear thinking.
Try to improve communication, as co parents this can be a crucial element for success.
Compromise, flexibility, good communication and cooperation are key elements to establish effective co-parenting. Co parenting succeeds when parents focus on their children’s happiness, well-being and stability, not their feelings about their ex-spouse. Try to separate your feelings from your behaviour.
Cooperating with your former partner can be beneficial to your children as they can exist in an environment free from tension or anger. They feel more secure, which ultimately benefits their emotional and mental health.
It is crucial that you develop a plan that works for both parents and adheres to any existing family court orders. It can help ensure that things keep on track and can avoid uncomfortable confrontations.
Parenting as a team with shared parental responsibility, making important decisions together, and cooperating can help create a more pleasant and healthy environment for your children.
How Do You Co Parent When Separated?
Compromise, flexibility, good communication and cooperation are key elements to succeed as a co parent. After separation, parents often have equal shared parental responsibility and make major decisions together, even though they no longer live together.
Divorced parents need to be organised and have a comprehensive plan that documents parenting and financial arrangements for their children.
Are You A Single Parent If You Co Parent?
A single parent raises their children without a partner and isn’t married or in a relationship.
Not everyone agrees that divorced parents who have equal shared parental responsibility fall under the single parent category, even though when the children live with them, they provide care on their own.
What Are Some Good Co Parenting Rules?
- Have a plan
- Be flexible
- Separate feelings from behaviour
- Keep your children as your focus
- Be consistent
- Work together and be a team
- Use open communication