Experiencing a separation or family division can be a difficult change and generally turns out to be more intricate when children are involved. If your relationship with your partner has totally broken down, there is an opportunity for you to separate and be friends especially if you are parents. If you are living separately, collaborative co-parenting can be a positive experience for you and your ex as you get to spend quality individual time with your children.
We have seen a number of healthy relationships develop once couples are separated where both are committed to doing the best they can for their children. We have also seen children happier when their parents are getting along dispute that they are no longer living together.
There are a multitude of legal family law matters you will go through during the divorce process, including children matters and property settlement. As parents and divorce lawyers, we would like like to share a couple of insights into making your co-parenting positive for everyone involved.
1. Remember what is important
The wellbeing of your children should be the number one priority for you and your ex-spouse. There could be numerous things you disagree on, but make the commitment upfront to do everything in your ability to shield your children from disagreements or arguments and make it as positive as you can for them. A negative approach can impact your children for the rest of their lives. We recommend both you and your ex-partner commit to focusing on being great parents, as it will help mitigate part of the hurt you may be feeling towards each other.
2. Avoiding conflict after the divorce
Children can thrive once their parents are separated as long as there is a mature relationship that does not involve constant bickering and arguing. Studies have shown that the vast majority of children suffer no lasting negative impacts on their grades, life satisfaction or social skills when their parents are amicably divorced. What is most important to a child’s wellbeing is having loving relationships with their parents without being exposed to conflict.
3. The divorce process
If you are currently considering separating from your partner, considering the following:
- Although you need to be separated from your partner for at least 12 months before you can apply for a divorce, you do not have to wait to finalise an agreement for parenting matters or to divide your assets.
- The divorce is generally finalised in 3 months after the application.
- Deciding on your children’s Parenting Plan and property settlement is separate from the divorce process itself.
- If one partner made the divorce application on their own and there are children under 18 years of age, you will need to attend a divorce hearing at Court to advise the court that adequate living arrangements for the children are in place.
4. Settling children’s matters during the divorce process
Setting up an agreement with your former partner is a good way to handle parenting responsibilities after a separation. In an agreement with equal shared parental responsibility both parents share in the major long-term decisions affecting the children, like which school the children will attend.
Your amicable agreement can take the form of a Parenting Plan or Consent Order outlining the agreement. If you and your ex-partner can’t come to an agreement, you can attend a mediation conference. If you still can’t come to an agreement, you will need to make an application to obtain parenting orders from the court.
The Court’s main priority will always be to consider what is in the best interests of the children, such as:
- The need to protect children from violence,
- The right of children to know and be cared for by both parents, and
- The right of children to spend time and communicate with both parents.
The Court can make a number of decisions directly related to the care of children, including:
- Who children will primarily live with,
- The amount of time children will spend with each parent,
- Whether one or both parents are responsible for important decision making, and
- Whether or not relocating the children is appropriate.
If we can assist your situation, book a complimentary consultation with a Shanahan Family Law expert who will take the time to listen and give you good guidance on your unique situation.