Making a co-parenting plan
If you and your former partner can work together on parenting matters to come up with an amicable agreement, there are a variety of issues and matters that should be addressed to make co-parenting a lot easier.
What factors do I need to think about when creating a plan for co-parenting?
Co-parenting will differ from family to family, particularly if you have younger children versus having older children, however, some of the things your plan should address include:
- Financial responsibilities;
- Contact and visitation;
- Medical needs and health concerns; and
- How decisions should be made.
How do we formalise a parenting arrangement?
If you and your child’s other parent have been able to successfully agree on a parenting arrangement, you can formalise this agreement. This ensures that both parents understand the agreement and can help to avoid disputes in the future.
A parenting plan is an agreement that is jointly agreed upon by both parents. The agreement should set out the parenting arrangements you have agreed upon clearly. It’s best to seek legal advice from a family lawyer to ensure you understand what you are agreeing to. A parenting plan does not require the parents to go to court, however, it is not legally enforceable. Instead, it serves as a record of the agreement which is useful if you need to provide evidence regarding the agreement to a court.
An agreement of the parenting arrangements can also be formalised by an application to the court for a parenting order or consent order. The consent order makes the agreement legally binding, and any breaches of the order can have serious consequences.
What if we can’t agree on a parenting arrangement?
If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree about parenting arrangements, then you may want to consider working with a mediator to develop a plan or to apply to the Court.
The focus of the Court is to ensure the best interests of the child/ren are protected, and they may make decisions regarding where your children will live, how much time they may spend with each parent, and who is responsible for decision making for the child (it could be one parent or both).
Having to go through the Court to make these decisions isn’t always possible to avoid, however, it can be a costly and drawn-out process which can cause a lot of stress for all parties involved.
How to make co-parenting after separation easier
If you’re in the middle of a separation or a divorce, the idea of having to work with your ex-partner to come to agreements about your child/ren may sound like your worst nightmare. It’s certainly easier said than done, but it may not be quite as bad as you anticipate.
Every parenting arrangement has its challenges and obstacles, and primarily, these obstacles are emotionally driven, especially if your separation has been acrimonious. Not only are your children going through a lot of change, you and your former partner are too.
However, if you can overcome the personal relationship you once shared and think about your co-parenting relationship as a new one, where your primary goal is to ensure your children are having their needs properly met, then this can have a number of benefits for your child, including:
- You can provide them with a consistent approach to parenting;
- You can help them to feel secure and stable;
- They can benefit from spending time and communicating with both parents;
- You can set a great example of how to solve problems and communicate; and
- You can reduce the impact your separation/divorce may have on their mental health and wellbeing.
Tip 4: Respect the other parent
Doing your best to remove emotions from the equation, as per our previous tip can go a long way when it comes to respecting your other child’s parent. It also includes listening to them and working with them to make decisions regarding your child.
Respect also means actually living by the shared parenting decisions you have made. Of course, you want to strive to be the best parent you can, but don’t aim to do so at the detriment of your child’s relationship with their other parent. Don’t try to make your child/ren play favourites when it comes to their parents and don’t talk poorly about their parent to them or in front of them.
By listening to their other parent and working with them to make decisions, you are not only showing respect to that parent but you’re presenting a great example for your child too.
Tip 5: Be proactive and plan ahead as much as possible
Emergencies, special events, extra-curricular activities and many other events that may interrupt your usual schedule, will come up throughout your shared parenting experience.
If you know of upcoming events or you suspect that the usual routine you both follow is likely to be interrupted in the future, bring this to the attention of the other parent.
You do need to allow for flexibility as there are unfortunately many variables that can affect each person in your co-parenting situation, and you’re not always going to be able to plan things out ahead of time. But what you can do is plan how to handle unexpected events – perhaps one parent may finish work earlier than the other and be more flexible in their availability or there may be a third party or other relatives you both agree upon who can help you out when unexpected events arise – working together you may be able to come up with a solution to satisfy both of you.
Where possible, plan ahead as much as you can, and try to create a plan to plan for the unexpected.