Separating or getting a divorce is a difficult, emotional decision. Such a decision is made more complex when children are involved. Who should the children live with? What time should the other parent have with the children? What will the rules be? These are all challenging parenting questions that demand answers.
Remember, intense relationship conflict may impact significantly on your children. Psychological problems are common amongst children who don’t adjust well during and after a relationship break-up. Protecting them during and after a separation is of the utmost importance as it is usually a time of high level conflict. You must stay as calm and rational as possible. The children didn’t ask to be put in the middle, so treat them with respect.
Children at various ages generally respond differently to separation and divorce. Young children (9 years of age and under) depend on and are attached to their parents. They will show grief and anxiety due to the loss of the family unit and the security gone with it. Older children may intensify their anger or pull away and communicate less. This tends to exaggerate the situation as parents blame themselves or each other.
The first step is to receive legal advice about your parenting situation outlining your rights and responsibilities regarding the children. Our role is to always consider what is best for the children even when acting for you. Our role may also include us communicating with the other party on your behalf, in order to resolve these parenting issues.
The Family Court usually provides for ‘equal shared’ parental responsibility. This doesn’t always mean equal time with both parents. There are also exceptions in cases of abuse, family violence or neglect. Understanding your rights and obligations is important.
The Court will always focus on the children’s best interest. While safety is paramount, it is ideal that children have a relationship with each parent and maintain this relationship by spending time with both parents.
Always remember, Court is not your only option and indeed should only be a last resort. If your separation is amicable and you and your ex-partner have already reached an agreement, it needs to be formalised in order to avoid confusion or misunderstandings later. This may be in the form of a Parenting Plan or Consent Order.
If you have questions or issues around separation and how it might impact on your children, ask for our help.
Our role is to help negotiate both short-term and long-term arrangements that you can rely on. Our focus is on a set routine for the children that will provide stability and calmness. Don’t delay, your children’s well-being and mental health are too important.