Parenting Agreement Strategies: Ensuring the Best for Your Children

Parenting Agreement Strategies: Ensuring the Best for Your Children

Parenting Agreement Strategies

Co-parenting after a relationship breakdown can be challenging, but several strategies can help ensure that the children maintain a stable, secure and healthy relationship with both parents.

Find out more about parenting agreements, what factors you should consider, what should be in a parenting plan and tips for successful co-parenting.

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is A Parenting Agreement?

When parents separate or divorce, they must make an agreement that focuses on the best interests and needs of their children. There are several different formats of parenting agreements, and depending on the relationship, it can be any of the following:

  • An oral agreement
  • A written parenting plan
  • A formal court order/consent orders

What Factors Should Be Considered?

When making a parenting agreement, keeping both parents involved in their child’s life, is ideally the best outcome, but depending on the individual circumstances, this may not always be possible. 

The following factors should be considered, when creating co-parenting arrangements:

  • If any arrangements currently exist, are they working?
  • Who is available for day to day care, does one partner work full-time?
  • Travel time and transport costs, do the parents live near each other
  • How to solve disagreements and work together to make changes where necessary?
  • How to involve relatives and other important people to the children?
  • The child’s view, understanding their preferences or concerns
  • The safety and well being of the children must be the primary focus

A parenting agreement may be updated as the needs of the child change. The document must allow some flexibility to adjust as the child matures and circumstances change.

How Can Co-Parenting Benefit Your Children?

When parents separate but maintain a workable co-parenting relationship, it can benefit their children in several ways.

When a child feels loved by their parents, it helps them to feel secure, which can help them adjust to the divorce and new living arrangements.

When co-parents follow similar routines in their households, their children will benefit from consistency, and will understand the rules and expected behaviour, which can result in a more harmonious living environment for the whole family.

When separated parents work together, their children are more likely to learn how to effectively problem solve issues and work with others. Role modelling good behaviour will positively impact the children, as they have healthy examples to follow.

Parenting arrangements can fall apart when there is conflict involved, which can have a detrimental effect on their children. Studies show that children exposed to conflict are more likely to develop issues such as ADHD, anxiety or depression. Children living with people who can effectively co-parent are mentally and emotionally healthier.

Successful Co-Parent Tips

Co-parenting can be challenging, especially when there is still tension in the parental relationship. Each parent must remain mature, responsible and always consider the children’s needs above their own.

Some of the following tips may help manage the transition.

Plan Ahead

Try to plan for tasks and activities, stay organised and maintain and share the schedule with the other parent, so the activities can continue as normal. It is important to remain flexible, and ready to adjust, as circumstances can change when managing multiple schedules and tasks.

Dont Put Children In The Middle

Separating from a former partner can cause feelings of bitterness and resentment. You should keep emotions separate, as the issues are not the child’s and they should not get caught in the middle.

Wherever possible, do not use children as messengers to relay information to the other parent. avoid putting them in the middle of the conflict, instead, email or message directly.

Avoid Speaking Negatively About The Other Parent

When negative things are verballised about the other parent, children may feel forced to choose a side. Every child has a right to have a relationship with both parents without negative behaviour or influences.

Remain Child Focused

Try to separate feelings from behaviours and remain child-focused. Keeping the child’s best interests in mind can help individuals act with grace and dignity.

Improve Communication With Your Ex-Partner

Separated parents must find a way to establish conflict-free communication. Which can be achieved by showing restraint, not overreacting or getting defensive. Approach conversations with a business focus to remain on task without allowing emotions to take over. Good communication begins with effective listening, and understanding the other person’s point of view, even if you do not agree.

The conversation should remain focused on the children and their needs and try to commit to regular communication, which is beneficial for the ongoing co-parenting commitment.

Work Together As A Team

Parenting can be challenging, and many decisions, such as medical needs, education and finance, must be made together. Effective co-parenting can be achieved when separated parents work together as a team and help each other make crucial decisions for their children. Maintaining consistency helps avoid confusion for the children and helps them understand expectations and acceptable behaviour. Consistent guidelines can help transitions when a child bounces between two households. Homework, curfews, discipline, children’s schedules and permitted activities should be similar in both homes, to help the transition.

Make Visitation Easy

Living in two homes is challenging, and there are times when moving between houses can be hard for a child. Parents must establish a routine to help prepare the child, whether it is helping to pack their bag, or remind them about their upcoming visit, help them by remaining positive and dropping them off on time. 

Parents should have double-ups of certain items, such as toiletries, hairbrushes, pyjamas etc, as it can make things easier and help the child remain comfortable at the other parent’s house.

When a child returns home, allow them time to adjust to the transition, give them space and try to keep things low-key. Perhaps establish a special routine, watch their favourite movie, play a game or share the same meal when they come back home again, as children thrive on routine, and knowing what to expect can help make their transition easier.

Managing Visitation Refusal

When children bounce between the homes of their separated parents, there are times when they may refuse to leave one parent to go to the other.

If this occurs, try to find the cause of the problem, as it may be something simple, such as there are not enough toys or entertainment items in the other parent’s home, or it could be an emotional reason, separation anxiety, or adjusting to a different style of discipline. It is essential to talk to the child, try to be flexible, give them some time and communicate with the other parent to reach an agreeable solution.

What Are Parenting Plans?

When a relationship breaks down, and there are children involved, parents must create a plan that states the care arrangements for the children. A parenting plan is a written document that details the agreements made between parents. It is not legally enforceable, but signed by both parties and is a cheaper alternative than going to court.

Parenting plans can be adapted to suit the particular family circumstances and updated as needs change. 

What Should You Include In A Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan will contain custody arrangements or parenting time for their children. Parents must work together to negotiate a schedule and plan that focuses on the child’s best interests, to ensure that they have a healthy and safe relationship with both parents.

A parenting plan should contain several key elements, such as the following:

  • Visitation or contact schedule/parenting time
  • How the parental responsibility is shared and living arrangements
  • The child’s age and developmental stage, which may influence the duration of contact
  • Method of communication: phone calls, email or video chat 
  • Education, agreement on which school their child will attend and who is responsible for school fee payment
  • Finances and practical expenses
  • Medical needs, for example, in case of a medical emergency the other parent must be contacted as soon as possible
  • Transport arrangements such pick ups and drop offs
  • Arrangements for holidays, birthdays, special days or events
  • Accommodation for religious, cultural or family commitments
  • Children’s sporting and social commitments
  • Guidelines for decision making
  • Back-up arrangements in case of a medical emergency
  • Procedures if a change to the schedule is needed

What Are Parenting Orders?

When parents can not agree about parenting arrangements for their children, they may need to obtain a Parenting Order from the Family Court. 

Parenting orders help by preparing clear and practical information to help parents navigate day to day care and safety of their children after they separate or divorce. The orders are legally binding and focus on the best interests of the children.

A parenting order or consent orders are writen when a parenting plan needs to be legally binding.

The Family Law Act sets out the guidelines of what should be included within parenting orders. Each family is different therefore parenting orders are created to suit the families needs. 

In some cases parents may need to consult a family dispute resolution practitioner to help reach an agreement or obtain legal advice before filing consent orders.

Summary

When parents separate or divorce, they must make an agreement that focuses on best interests and needs of their children. Several different parenting agreements exist, and depending on the relationship, it can be any of the following: A parenting plan, court order or verbal agreement.

When making a parenting agreement, keeping both parents involved in their children’s lives is ideally the best outcome, but depending on the individual circumstances, this may not always be possible. 

When parents separate but continue to maintain a workable co-parenting relationship, it can benefit their children in several ways, such as helping children feel secure, learn problem solving skills, adapt to a new living environment, and understand boundaries and rules in a household.

When a relationship breaks down and there are children involved, a parenting plan must be created to document the care arrangements for the children.

A parenting plan will contain custody arrangements or parenting time for their children. Parents must work together to negotiate a schedule and plan that focuses on the child’s best interests to ensure a healthy and safe relationship with both parents.

FAQs

What Is Included In A Parenting Agreement?

A parenting plan must contain the following key elements: where the children will live and who they will spend time with, contact and custody.

Day to day arrangements, such as transport, must be specified. Also. practical issues, such as how far away the parents live from each other and how it will impact visitation and transport costs. Issues like medical treatment, and the choice of education for the children must be discussed.  

Parenting plans can be adapted to suit the individual family circumstances and updated as needs change. Parents must make an agreement that focuses on best interests and needs of the children. 

What Is The Most Common Custody Arrangement In Australia?

The most common custody arrangement in Australia is joint custody, where both parents are involved in major decisions regarding their children. Shared custody means the children will spend time at both parents’ homes and bounce between two households.

Custody will be adapted to suit the particular family circumstances and updated as needs change,  

When making a parenting agreement, keeping both parents involved in their children’s lives is the best outcome, but depending on the individual circumstances, this may not always be possible. In all cases, the safety and wellbeing of the children is the focus and primary consideration, especially in circumstances that involve domestic violence.

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