How to Prepare for Divorce With Children Involved
Separation and divorce is not easy on any parties involved, but it can be an especially difficult time for children.
The process of separation and divorce can be quite complex and there is often a variety of legal considerations you will need to understand and work through to best serve your child’s, and your own wellbeing. One of these considerations, is your parenting arrangements.
If you are looking to separate or divorce and you and your partner have children, Pullos Lawyers is sharing the information below to help you navigate your next steps.
First and foremost, when it comes to preparing for divorce with children, your child’s needs should be your number one consideration.
It is important to look after their emotional needs, as well as their legal ones.
Your Child’s Emotional Needs & Considerations
While parental separation can place a lot of stress on children, it doesn’t have to be a roadblock to their development and wellbeing moving forward. As long as your children enjoy a supportive and encouraging environment, and have positive relationships with both parents (when appropriate) and their extended family, there is no reason they should feel any long term negative effects as a result of the parental relationship breakdown.
Emotionally, your child needs:
- Love. Reassure your child that you love them, and that the separation between you and the other parent does not diminish any love you have towards them
- Sympathy and care. Let them know it’s ok to share their feelings with you, and acknowledge their feelings
- Positive interactions with the other parent. Keep them out of arguments, and do not discuss the other parent negatively
- Children have enough to cope with without being your emotional support as well. Speak to other adults, such as friends, family and professionals for support; avoid leaning on your children for that.
There are a number of services available to children and families through Family Relationships Online for those seeking support navigating a separation or divorce.
Your Child’s Legal Needs & Considerations
When preparing for divorce with children involved, you must also understand the children’s legal needs and considerations.
The Family Law Act 1975 concerns the care and welfare of children in Australia (except in WA). It defines the rights of children and the responsibilities that each parent has towards their children in Australia.
All families are different, just as divorces and separations differ from family to family.
It can often be difficult to change the care arrangements agreed to between parents immediately following a separation. We recommend considering what parenting arrangements might be most suitable before talking to the other parent, and obtaining legal advice before implementing any kind of care arrangement. The best long-term arrangements will be both practical and in the best interest of the children.
If you don’t agree, you will need to first try to resolve out of court through family dispute resolution. Cassandra Pullos is one of Queensland’s more foremost dispute resolution practitioners, with services offered through both Pullos Dispute Resolution and Parenting Coordination Australia. Parenting Coordination Australia was co-founded by Cassandra Pullos and specialises providing child-centred resolution services for high-conflict parents. PCA is a leading resource for parents looking for a Parenting Coordinator.
If an agreement can still not be reached, or this is not an option for you, then you will need a certificate from a family dispute resolution practitioner in order to apply to the Court for a Parenting Order.
More information parenting orders can be found below.
Your Children’s Best Interests
Whenever there is a dispute pertaining to children (such as their living arrangements) the Court has the power to make orders such as parenting orders.
When applying, the Court will consider the best interests of the child over anything else using primary considerations, and some additional considerations.
The Act provides guidance on how the court determines what the child’s best interests are, but it is up to the discretion of the court as to what it considers relevant in determining these.
These primary considerations will be:
- the child’s benefit in having a meaningful relationship with both parents
- the need to protect children from harm, both physical and psychological.
Additional considerations include, but are not limited to:
- the children’s views
- the relationship of the children with grandparents
- how much of a role each parent has played in decision making around major long-term issues:
- how much time each parent has spent and communicated with the children during and after the relationship
- whether each parent has fulfilled or failed to fulfil their parental obligations (eg paying child support on time).
You can read more about additional considerations here.
Once in place, a parenting order is legally enforceable. Breaching a parenting order could result in serious consequences.
Shared Parental Responsibility
Generally speaking, the court assumes it is in the children’s best interests for parents to have equal shared parental responsibility, with the exception of where the child has been a victim of abuse, or there has been family violence.
While a parent may have equal shared parental responsibility, this does not automatically mean that there will be equal parenting time.
Equal shared parental responsibility means both parents share in the decision making process when it comes to long-term planning for that child’s future.
Before starting the process of divorce when there are children involved, you might wish to prepare by having a think about how you might be able to come to an agreement about the following for your children:
- living arrangements
- medical care
- any religious or cultural beliefs or upbringing
- financial support
Tools to Help
There are some tools that can help you prepare for a divorce when children are involved - whether you’re in the process of separating with your partner, or just considering it.
Family Dispute Resolution Centres can help you work through relationship difficulties as well as deal with separation.
They can help you to focus on the needs of your children, provide up to one hour of joint Family Dispute Resolution sessions free of charge, and provide referrals to other family relationship specialists.
It is not suitable for those with court orders already in place and may not be right for you if you are not comfortable sharing information with your ex-partner. You can read more here.
Need More Help Preparing For Divorce With Children Involved?
If you are considering a divorce, we suggest you seek legal advice early on. Pullos Lawyers has a wealth of experience and expertise helping families prepare for separation and divorce. We can help to minimise stress for both you and your children, while providing you with the best legal advice and strategies for your situation and goals.
Our team of family lawyers in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast can help you with filing your divorce application also assist with a range of matters including De Facto & Same Sex Law, Spousal Maintenance, and International Family Law. Please get in touch via email, or call us in our Gold Coast office on (07) 5526 3646, or our Brisbane office on (07) 3144 1641.