Is Co-Parenting Necessary? Our Guide To Parenting Children After a Separation.
When it comes to separating from a partner you share a child with, learning how to co-parent can be difficult.
For most families, it’s the best way to parent for all parties post-divorce - but it’s not always smooth sailing. If you’re dealing with an ex-partner who is high-conflict, co-parenting can very quickly become draining: emotionally, and in some instances, financially.
For those ex-couples who are struggling to agree on ways to co-parent or even communicate with each other, you’ll very likely find yourself asking the question: is co-parenting necessary?
We share the benefits of co-parenting, some strategies for managing it, and some alternatives if you’re struggling to make it work.
What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting means different things to different people. For most people, co-parenting is the process of two parents working together to raise a child born out of their previous relationship. Co-parenting can be made even more difficult in circumstances where parents have not known each other for long periods of time as quite often, they are still learning the other person’s parenting style.
It’s usually best for your children that you co-parent, and that parents agree on arrangements that will allow you to both be involved in your child’s life.
What Are Some Strategies for Effective Co-Parenting?
Whatever your situation is, you and your former partner need to make some clear decisions around how you’ll parent your children. Some important decisions are as follows:-
• Make a decision to put your children’s needs first and make a commitment to minimise conflict between you.
• Devise a co-parenting plan - consistency is key. Sit down with your ex-partner to put in writing a plan that will work for both of you. This plan can be as long or as short as you like. You will need to include things like:
- Living arrangements
- Visitation schedules;
- How you want finances to be organised;
- Where you want the children to go to school, how you deal with their medical needs;
- Any religious and cultural considerations;
- How you organise things like weekend sport, and birthdays;
- You may also wish to include things like the process for communication if things change, agreed alternative carers, and anything else related to your specific circumstances.
• Plan for flexibility. Even the best laid plans can go awry. There will be instances when miscommunication between spouses or changing circumstances cause a blip in the plan. Try not to get frustrated, as this may make it difficult to get back on track.
• Accept that you and your partner will likely have different parenting styles. Try to recognise that there are some things that are non-negotiable (such as schedules pertaining to medical care), and some things that are simply preferential. As long as both parenting styles ensure their safety and health, and meets the needs of the children, agreeing to disagree on certain things in your co-parenting plan will be necessary.
• Maintain respect. While you and your partner are no longer together, it is important to be respectful when dealing with and talking about the other parent in the presence of the child. Unless there is a risk in doing so, it is in the child’s best interests that both co-parents try their best to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Many parents also choose to have any agreement reached between them formalised as Consent Orders. A Consent Order is a legally binding Court Order which is enforceable by both parents If one parent breaches this Consent Order, they may be penalised by a Family Court. You can apply for a Consent Order through the Family Courts
And, even if you have come to an agreement together, it is always a good idea to get independent legal advice before you formalise it. A family lawyer can also assist with applying for Consent Orders. Please get in touch with us at Pullos is you need assistance.
The Family Court website provides more resources when it comes to agreeing on arrangements.
It is Very Difficult for Me and My Ex-Partner To Agree. Is Co-Parenting Necessary?
While co-parenting is not essential, it is usually the best way to raise any shared children.
You both need to recognise that co-parenting tends to be challenging;. You will in all likelihood, need to make some compromises – remember to focus on the needs of your children, rather than your ‘wants’ and ‘rights’.
If you cannot come to an agreement on anything, and co-parenting (in the sense of two people working together) seems almost impossible due to high levels of conflict, there are some alternatives.
A Parenting Order is a court order made about the arrangements for your children. It is legally binding, and there can be significant penalties for breaches of a Court Order.
Unless there have been instances of violence or abuse, or in other exceptional circumstances, you must attempt to seek help from a mediator, relationship counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner before applying for a Parenting Order.
Where a Parenting Order has been put in place but there is difficulty in implementation due to conflict between the parents, a Parenting Coordinator can assist. A Parenting Coordinator will work with you to develop effective, child-focussed strategies for dealing with the conflict so that you can both uphold court orders and parenting agreements in the long-term.
Both mediation and parenting coordination will typically involve shorter waiting periods and lower costs than an in-court solution.
Need Some Assistance Deciding If Co-Parenting is Necessary for You?
At Pullos Lawyers, we have a team with a depth of experience in a number of family law issues, including divorce, property settlement, child support, international family law, LGBTQI+ law and more, and are committed to helping you and your family achieve positive outcomes through empathetic, tailored approaches. Cassandra Pullos is a pre-eminent mediator and parenting coordinator, and has built a reputation for delivering exceptional out-of-court outcomes with her problem solving approach. Pullos Lawyers offer a free initial consultation, so please get in touch with our team via email, or on (07) 5526 3646 (Gold Coast office) or (07) 3144 1641 (Brisbane Office).