It goes without saying that the breakdown of a marriage or relationship is a difficult time for any family. Not only are mums and dads impacted by their separation, children, especially, can be significantly impacted should the matter end up in the Family Court. Grandparents are often affected as well, providing emotional support to their adult children who are grieving the loss of their spouse and relationship with their own children.
The degree of impact however, can be mitigated if appropriate steps are taken. In this article, we will touch on a few of the key agitators we see in practice, and what we would do to reduce their impact.
How much time children should spend with each parent
Whilst some parenting arrangements are more common than others, there is no ‘one size fits all' answer. A separated couple may start court proceedings about parenting for various reasons, one of the most common being the parent’s inability to agree on how much time their children should spend with each parent. If this is the main issue in dispute, neither parent can start court proceedings without first participating in Family Dispute Resolution (unless there is an imminent risk to the children’s safety of family violence, abuse, neglect, abduction).
Family Dispute Resolution is child-focused and encourages separated parents to reach agreements about their children between themselves. An accredited practitioner provides assistance by obtaining and sharing proposals from each party, and exploring options which aim to allow parents to come to an agreement without entering the Family Court system.
The biggest pointer for reducing the length of a parenting dispute is to minimise conflict. Be nice! Yes, we know this is easier said than done, especially given the raft of emotions a person may experience in these situations. We aren’t saying not to have feelings, however, it may be beneficial to at least pretend that you don’t feel negatively (hostile, angry, frustrated, accusatory, blame) toward the other parent. As hard as it may be after a separation, your restraint in this regard may significantly reduce the stress and impact this separation process may have on your children, your relatives and even yourself.
After separation, avoid sending text messages or emails which may be seen as ambiguous or overly aggressive. What one person sees as an ‘orange’ may be viewed by the other (such as a Judge), ‘as an apple’. Be responsible with how you communicate, be mindful of how tone comes across in written communications, and ensure that your messages are well received. Think before you send, as it may all be used against you should you not act appropriately.
This is especially relevant as ‘an inability to communicate effectively with the other parent’ is a common argument used by parents to resist the approaches of the other for more time or equal time with children. The current and future capacity for parents to communicate with each other is a significant consideration for the court under the Family Law Act.
Being able to communicate civilly and clearly can make or break an application for parenting arrangements: don’t write abusive messages, don’t vent on social media. Don’t argue back and forth about different changeover locations or times. Be polite whenever possible. We are not suggesting that you aren’t allowed to ask questions of your ex-partner, but if the answer isn’t what you want, don’t push it!
Many parenting-after-separation courses include a module on communication. You can find many courses online and we highly recommend completing these courses (with an open mind and forward thinking attitude).
Other things to consider
At changeovers, where your children are present during interactions between their separated parents, be on time and try to exchange pleasantries (pleasantly!)
If you only have limited time with your child, perhaps let go of strict parenting for the time being. Sometimes, even seemingly small things like taking away your child’s iPad may be enough for them to tell the court that they don’t like you (even though they may not mean it!)
Be involved with your child’s life. Contact the child’s school to receive copies of reports and dates for events. Go to parent teacher interviews. Go to extra-curricular activities
If relevant, cease using illicit drugs immediately. Make enquiries to undergo a drug screen, reduce alcohol usage, and participate in counselling if these are issues the other parent has concerns about
Not being able to collect the children yourself is not going to help your case if you want an equal time arrangement. Likewise, putting more distance between the present primary parent’s residence, and yours, will also not be helpful in seeking to spend more time with your children. Try to find a leeway or resolution that is helpful to both you, the other parent, and your child
Tips for relatives
If you are the parent or sibling of someone going through a separation, you should also try to discourage conversations where blame is laid and accusations are levelled, such as ‘he/she is doing this to get back at me’. Again, this is easier said than done, but, little things like this can ultimately make a big difference in the process.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.*
Doing Business in Australia: Your free business health check and guide to overcoming cashflow challenges
This is a challenging financial and economic climate for companies, businesses, and families. If you want to outwit, outplay, and outlast the competition (or simply survive) – cash(flow) is king.
Doing Business in Australia: Insolvency Snapshot for 2024
Corporate insolvency appointments have more than doubled since this time last year.
Can my relationship status change while awaiting the decision on my General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa?
With prolonged processing times, changes in circumstances usually happen. People get married or enter de facto relationships, or they get separated or divorced. Children are born sometimes.
Migration Overhaul – Once in a generation Migration Reform (First of a series)
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the latest figures (2019-2020) showed that international education was worth AUD $37.4 billion to the Australian economy.