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Often the hardest part of separation is often working out what arrangements should be made for the future care of the children. Since 1 July 2006 there is an assumption under the Family Law Act 1975 that both parents will play an active and meaningful role in their children’s lives. What that means in a practical sense will depend on your own particular circumstances and the needs of the children.
The parliament and the courts have become increasingly concerned about the effect that contested Family Law disputes have on separating families in general, and children in particular. In their desire to make the Court system a place of last resort in parenting disputes there is now a requirement that all parties attend mediation prior to the commencement of any Court proceedings. A significant amount of mediation is conducted through the governments Family Relationships Centers.
There are of course cases where mediation is not appropriate such as in cases:1. where there is a history of family violence;
2. where there is an inequality in the bargaining power between the parties;
3. where the emotional or physical health of the parties makes attending mediation inappropriate;
4. where there is a concern that a child might suffer abuse.
In such cases a certificate must be produced to the Court which clearly sets out why mediation was not appropriate in your particular matter.
If an agreement is reached through mediation this arrangements for the future care of the children can be formalised in any one of the following ways:1. Parenting Plans;
2. Consent Orders.
Separate your financial issues from your parenting issues
In any family breakdown, there are two types of issues to be resolved: financial issues and parenting issues. These are completely separate matters and should be dealt with that way. You should not allow your discussions and disagreements over property and money to enter into your co-parenting relationship. Your relationship with your children should have nothing to do with financial transactions or property transfers. Even if your expartner’s conduct regarding financial matters is making life difficult for you this should not interfere with his/her role in your child’s life. It can certainly be a challenge to behave civilly with someone whom you think is trying to cheat you financially but the ability to keep parenting issues separate from financial matters is a hallmark of maturity.
Be flexible and reasonable in making time arrangements
In a great many of these cases, a little common sense and fairness from both parents would have gone a long way toward resolving the problem. Be flexible and reasonable in accommodating your ex-partner’s work schedule and travel concerns as well as changes in your child’s routines. Be considerate when dealing with time on special occasions and during work or school holiday periods. You never know when you might need your ex-partner to extend the same consideration to you. Remember that schedules must be adjusted to accommodate changes in the parents’ and children’s lives. This is not only normal but is to be expected, so go with the flow, don’t make a big deal out of every minor deviation from your schedule, and be willing to make compromises for your child’s sake.
Your children still see you as a family, so communicate!
If you truly accept that your children are innocent and bear no responsibility for your separation, then you know that they are entitled to be part of a family and to have their parents behave like family members, even though they live apart. Children who have contact with both parents need them to communicate with each other. When a child is going frequently from one parent’s home to the other’s it is vital that each parent know about anything important that has happened to the child while in the other parent’s care, especially an illness. It is also important for parents to have each other’s addresses and telephone numbers, unless there is a very good reason to not disclose this information-and even in that case, there must be some way for parents to contact each other (for example, through a third party) in emergencies. Parents should have equal rights to obtain information about their children from schools, doctors, and other service providers. Parents should have equal rights to attend important meetings such as parent-teacher interviews or key medical appointments. Both parents should be able to attend special events in the children’s lives such as religious ceremonies, school events, sports tournaments, and music recitals.
These points have been developed from:
“Tug of War: A Judge's Verdict on Separation, Custody Battles, and the Bitter Realities of Family Court” by Judge Harvey Brownstone Toronto