At the best of times, it can be difficult to have shared parenting post-separation and unless there is a clear plan regarding where the children will spend their time, and when, the potential for misunderstandings and conflict to arise can be high. Throw in the school holidays and significant occasions or family celebrations such as birthdays, Christmas and Easter and it can be even more difficult to navigate for separated parents.
It should be each part’s ultimate goal to always consider the best interests of the child/children first and foremost, and to do everything possible to minimise their exposure to parental conflict.
Avoid conflict with your former partner/spouse.
1. Creating a Shared Calendar for Parenting Arrangements
Juggling your own schedule is often a challenge. Throw in a co-parenting schedule, extra-curricular activities, doctor’s appointments and birthday parties and it’s no surprise that parents find it difficult to keep track.
For the sake of their children, many co-parents aim to work together. A shared calendar is a useful co-parenting schedule is an effective way of supporting and implementing positive co-parenting.
It is important to understand that busy schedules often create tension so creating an interactive shared calendars makes it easy to coordinate plans and ensure that both parents are on the same page. This will help to avoid arguments over who is taking the child to a birthday party or special event.
The calendars also enable parents to request swaps without back-and-forth communications. This is particularly helpful for those occasions when family events are scheduled on days when the children are not usually in your care.
2. Plan ahead
To avoid and/or minimise the risk parents having conflicting plans, and rather than leaving arrangements to the last minute, it is best practice to negotiate what is important to both parents ahead of time and try to be reasonable about shared parenting arrangements.
Firstly, parents need to determine whether either parent would like to take the child/children away on holiday at a particular time of the year or whether there are any extended family events or traditions that one parent would like to continue with the children. Once that has been established, parents insert these dates into a shared parenting calendar or document them ahead of time so that everyone knows in advance what the schedule looks like – including the children, who will benefit from the security of knowing where they will be, and when.
3. Communicate effectively
Clear and open communication is the key in shared parenting arrangements and is one of the best ways to minimise potential conflict from arising. Schedule dates early, add them to a shared calendar or document them in some form, and make sure everyone is aware of the arrangements ahead of time. If changes need to be made, communicate those as soon as possible to ensure alternative arrangements can be agreed to.
Many families who successfully navigate shared parenting prepare a calendar a year (or more) in advance. This may not always be possible, but the more notice and time each parent has to prepare for holidays and special occasions the better.
4. Promote Flexibility
Parents need to be aware that life happens, as such, situations or circumstances can change, so a degree of flexibility and the ability to compromise may also be required. So, in addition to providing a consistent and reliable basis for the calendar of both parents, a co-parenting schedule allows for flexibility. With a clear, easy-to-read schedule, parents have little problem making room for an unexpected event or visit that may fall outside the normal routine. By knowing when the children are going to be at both houses, they can keep track of how time has been allotted and tend to be more agreeable for those times when one parent just wants their children to be part of a special celebration.
What to do if you are already in conflict?
At Meredith Lawyers, we understand that not all co-parenting situations are the same. For some parents, it can be very difficult to work together to reach an agreement over shared parenting arrangements following separation.
If you are struggling to reach an agreement with your former partner over shared parenting arrangements, our team of experienced family lawyers at Meredith Lawyers can assist you to resolve the issue and move forward.
Similarly, if you believe there is potential for conflict to arise in the near future, or you are concerned that parenting arrangements you have in place will not be followed, do not hesitate to contact our family law team at Meredith Lawyers to discuss the options available to you.