Setting a co-parenting plan is a crucial part of the post-separation process. This will ensure that your children don’t have to deal with excessive trauma due to the split — something that could lead to psychological instability in adulthood.
However, it can be deceptively complex to set up the right plan during a separation. This article helps to outline the key issues you should consider when forming your co-parenting plan.
Divorce and separation are painful for everyone involved–particularly children. At this challenging time, children need support, love, and contact with both parents. Some certainty about the future is also very important for everyone. A written parenting plan, worked out between parents, will help clarify the arrangements you need to put in place to care for your children. The Plan can include shared parental responsibility for major long-term decision-making and the time children spend with each parent. It will help everyone involved to know what is expected of them and it will be a valuable reference as time passes and circumstances change.Have Questions? Read our FAQs
Benefits of a Solid Co-Parenting Plan
A parenting plan puts the best interests of the child first. It is drawn up in goodwill with a shared commitment to your children and their future firmly in mind. A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents covering practical issues of parental responsibility. Your plan will detail practical decisions about children’s care in such areas as:
- parenting style
- living arrangements
- health care
- emotional well-being
A parenting plan is not legally enforceable; however, it can have legal implications. As your circumstances change, your plan may need to be changed in order to
- changes you have already discussed but not yet committed to writing
- changes to Australian Family Law
- children’s changing developmental needs, for example
- 0 to 4 years every 9 months
- 4 to 12 years every 12 months
- 12+ years every 2+ years.
Reviews can be done at any time providing you both agree and some parents prefer not to set a formal review date.
Parenting plans and the law
A parenting plan can take any form, but to be a parenting plan under the Family Law Act it must be made free from any threat, duress or coercion. It must be in writing and signed and dated by both parents. However a parenting plan is not legally enforceable.
If both parents agree on arrangements, you can submit your parenting plan to the Court using the Court’s Application for Consent Orders form. The details of your parenting plan are then built into a Parenting Order, giving it the same legal effect as an order made after a Court hearing.
If you cannot agree on arrangements for children you may need to have the Family Court decide and issue you a Parenting Order. In deciding parenting arrangements the Court must always consider:
- the best interests of the child
- the extent to which both parents have complied with their obligations in
relation to the child, which may include those set out in a parenting plan (if any).
Parenting Orders are one form of consent order issued by the Court. (Other types of consent orders relate to property settlement, spousal maintenance and child support).
You and your ex need to set up a cohesive co-parenting plan so that the child will see, despite the separation, both parents still care about them. This assurance and security will help them cope, minimising the amount of time they need to adjust to the new situation.
Having a co-parenting plan that you both agree on also sets consistent expectations for the child. If one parent is more lenient with discipline or provides larger rewards whenever the child does something good then they may start to view the other parent as unfair, so avoid this.
Studies have shown that children who grow up with a solid co-parenting plan in place have less mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. This will make it easier for them to make the transition to adulthood when the time finally comes and avoid issues like burnout.
Co-Parenting Plan Dos and Don’ts
Do Set Your Anger Aside
It’s going to be nearly impossible to find the right balance in your co-parenting plan if you’re still harboring resentment against your ex. They might have hurt you, but it’s time to put that aside to ensure the toxicity doesn’t impact your child.
Do Have Constant Communication
You should stay in close contact with your former partner so that you can remain up to date on your child, even when they’re spending time away. This will help you stay in the loop so that you know how to best care for your child when they return to your care.
Don’t Speak Ill of Your Ex
We know it can be tempting to vent all your resentments to your child about how the shortcomings of their mother or father in the relationship, but this is never productive. It will do nothing but invoke negative emotions within them. Keep the venting to friends, not your children.
Establishing a healthy co-parenting arrangement won’t be nearly as difficult as some suggestions if you communicate in a civil manner to work towards the common goal. Collaboration is essential to the process.
Just because the relationship between you and your spouse failed, that doesn’t mean that you have to put a strain on the parent-child relationship. Set your differences aside so that your child can grow up healthy, happy, and successful.
Working out a co-parenting plan is more straightforward when the separation is amicable. Split Easy makes the process easy through an online platform, that asks some simple questions so you can achieve the right balance for everyone.Have Questions? Read our FAQs