Helpful information about separated parenting
With very few exceptions, parents share the responsibility for their children’s welfare whether they are living together or apart. This means that the important decisions relating to the child’s upbringing e.g. decisions affecting where they live, their education and health care and of course how much time they spend with each parent, should be made jointly.
Research shows shared-time arrangements work well when the parents can communicate and discuss the arrangements easily, and work together to support their children. Such arrangements need to be child-focused and flexible. In practice, this means that they are unlikely to work unless both parents are fully committed to them and both believe they are in their children’s interest.
Dividing the children’s time equally between both parents during term time presents particular problems which can place additional stress on children and parents and requires a greater level of co-operation, communication and goodwill than arrangements where children establish their main home with one parent.
Applications to the Family Court are costly not only in terms of the money expended in legal fees, but also in terms of the time and energy used up, and damage done to the family by the conflict which is likely to be fuelled by the Court proceedings.
Where the Courts are asked to make decisions they will be concerned with the welfare of the children rather than “rights” to which the parents may feel entitled. Outcomes are unpredictable and will reflect magistrates’ or judge’s personal views.
Parents may often find it difficult to separate their own anxieties about the breakdown of their relationship from the best interests of their children. As a result children may be confused, and will be anxious not to upset or disappoint either of their parents. In such circumstances, they will often behave differently with each parent, telling them what they believe they want to hear. It is, therefore, important that parents are able to set aside their differences and learn to communicate effectively with each other and work together to support their children.
Nicholas von Benzon
Family Mediation Council Accredited Mediator