If you have children and separate, your most immediate concern will always be the impact of it all on your kids. Most of our clients have a similar aim:- “I want to separate and keep my kids’ childhood as stress-free and normal as possible.”
Whether your separation is staged slowly and surely or hits you from nowhere, making arrangements for the children is just about always painful and complicated. Often one or both of you will have some carefully thought through ideas about how the separation can work best for the children. However the reality of what seemed OK in a planned and abstract way can suddenly feel unbearable.
Going from a situation where you thought you would always be with your children, to one where they are unreachable and out of bounds for chunks of time feels unnatural and terrifying.
Perhaps a once-loved partner has hurt you and become “the enemy”. Allowing your children to spend time with “the enemy” may conflict with your natural instinct to protect your children at all times.
You may have an amicable break-up, but your noble goals of co-operative shared parenting could be eroded as differences in parenting style, new partners or other challenges put them to the test.
The absolute best thing you can do for your children is make an early plan of how you would like to parent as a team after separation. Pro-active parenting plans can head off problems before they start.
For one small example, if you have discussed what will happen with planning and celebrating a child’s birthdays well ahead of time, arguments about parties, presents and time spent with the child are more likely to be avoided. This protects the child from potential emotional harm as well as the parents. You can talk pro-actively about introducing new partners, time with extended family, what schools children attend – almost anything that might come up as a matter of contention in the future.
Janine can help guide you both in a neutral and professional way to an agreed parenting plan that you might never achieve on your own. Call us to talk about parenting mediation or to book an individual pre-mediation session in our Manuka centre.
Janine’s tip sheet on how to prepare for parenting mediation lists everything you might like to think about including in a parenting plan.
– Relationships Australia’s excellent parenting plan booklet is a comprehensive guide the coming up with a plan.
If you and your ex are experiencing conflict about shared parenting, you may be required to attend mediation (called Family Dispute Resolution) before you are allowed to go to Court over parenting disputes. This can also apply to Grandparents or anyone who has a close relationship with a child and who feels they are entitled to and being prevented forming an important relationship with a child. Read more about this on our Family Law and FDR Page.