The Benefits of Working Together
In 2014, the law relating to children introduced a presumption of parental involvement. When determining arrangements for children, the law says that the starting point is that both parents should be involved in their children's lives unless that would be contrary to their children's welfare, such as where one parent poses a risk of harm to the children. Parliament did not reform the law to reflect a presumption of shared care or equal time with each parent.
The law is in place to guide parents where they are unable to agree arrangements for their children. There is the, "no order principle", which means that if there is no disagreement, the Family Courts need not intervene.
Whilst there will cases where the Family Courts have to adjudicate on child arrangement disputes, this should not be seen as the norm, or default position.
Surely there has to be an alternative way?
A relationship breakdown is a traumatic process and is perceived in a similar way to bereavement. The legal process, financial issues and the emotional rollercoaster take their toll. It is often difficult for parents to separate their own personal relationship when working out future children arrangements. Separated families can really benefit when implementing a shared parenting approach, more commonly known as Co-Parenting.
What does Co-Parenting entail?
Parents co-operating creates positive solutions which significantly benefit children. This approach allows both parents to play an active role in their children's lives and for the children to be their primary focus. Otherwise children risk being caught up in parental conflict. It is the child who has the right to have a positive relationship with their parents.
Reduced conflict allows children to feel safe and alleviates any stress that follows separation. Children benefit from consistency, where parents agree joint approaches for routines such as bedtime and homework, positively impacting on their mental and emotional health. Younger children often feel that a relationship breakdown is their fault. Parents' getting on is a powerful statement and will help children transition to the next stage of their lives. By parents overcoming differences to achieve an amicable divorce or separation will undoubtedly promote good future behaviour and positive examples to follow.
Working together will have its challenges. However, the benefits of child focused dialogue between parents, where they put aside their own feelings about the other will be of immense benefit to everyone. Communication can be face to face between parents and/or electronically through emails or texts. Children shouldn't be used as messengers, as this approach raises the risk of the children being placed at the centre of conflict
Agreed house rules in both homes creates a sense of security and predictability for children, as does each parent speaking about the other positively in front of their children. If not, children often feel torn between their parents, resulting in heightened anxiety and stress. Ensuring that each parent does "boring stuff" is important. This can be done by agreeing a Parenting Plan, a document that sets out the agreed arrangements for care of the children, any agreed "ground rules" and commitments about the way the parents will deal with one another. Your lawyer can help you prepare such a document or this can be agreed directly at Family Mediation.
Working together will involve co-operation and compromise. Within all relationships, there can be disagreement and reaching solutions can be challenging. Often, arguments arise from communication problems and, it is important to ensure that both parents feel able to communicate with each other effectively and discuss issues in a child focused manner. If not, conflict will be heightened which may negatively impact on the welfare of children. If parents struggle to maintain a Co-Parenting approach, Family Mediation may be a good option to consider rather than court proceedings. A neutral third party - the Mediator helps you to reach joint agreements to move forward. The mediation process includes an information meeting (MIAM) to find out about the mediation and how it can help you.
It is important that parents believe in their parenting abilities and qualities by focusing on their needs as opposed to past differences and will help children to feel safe and secure.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.