When trying to agree parenting arrangements after a divorce, the single most important thing to remember is the emotional impact of the changes upon the children involved. It is always preferable for the parties to reach an agreement outside court with minimal conflict ][that’s just one of the reasons we are such big supporters of the family mediation and collaborative law approaches to family law problems]. If the case goes to the family courts, they will rule solely on the basis of what is in the child’s best interests – under the Children Act, family courts have an obligation to make the children’s interests of “paramount importance”.
Attempting to reach a settlement with your ex-partner is a difficult process and one that should not be underestimated. However, it is doable and once finalised, shared parenting can be a very satisfactory arrangement. Below are 5 key pieces of advice for approaching parenting negotiations.
1. Ensure that discussions are carried out according to the adage: “what is best for the children”. Their wellbeing is of paramount concern and should not be sacrificed for the personal gain for either party. It must be made clear at the start of proceedings that both parties understand this.
2. Try every avenue before even considering going to court. In most cases, agreements can be reached out of court saving you a lot of stress and expense. Family courts are unable to reach agreements tailored to the needs of both parties due to time restraints, so you may end up with neither party achieving the desired outcome.
3. Communicate: by talking to your ex-partner and your children you will be better positioned to reach a desirable outcome. Take advantage of the expertise available including child experts and counsellors for example, who can help decide what is in everyone’s best interests.
4. Set up an online calendar/diary accessible to both parties whereby the arrangements for the children can be organised. Information about who will collect the children, emergency contact details and important dates could all be stored.
5. Consider preparing a parenting agreement, establishing the agreed childcare arrangements and a code of conduct for the parents. This can help to prevent future arguments and demonstrates a willingness to cooperate which could prove very important in the long term.
There are bound to be difficulties along the way but by securing a solid foundation for your children, you can make clear to them that any problems they face in life can be resolved maturely and agreeably.