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What are the main considerations with regards to getting the best for my children?

September 14, 2016

Getting the best for your children is often the first and foremost priority in a separation. Divorce and separation can be difficult times for children, particularly if they are too young to understand what’s going on. Here’s what you can do to ensure you achieve the best care arrangements for your children and protect their wellbeing.

How to make decisions about your child’s care

It is not practical to let your children make their own decisions about where they live or whom they live with. You should consider your child’s feelings and listen to their wishes, but young children are often not mature enough to decide what’s in their best interests and teenagers will often play one parent off the other. You and your former spouse should discuss your child’s needs and make decisions together about parenting arrangements. If you’re unable to agree with your former spouse, you can meet with a mediator known as a Family Law Dispute Practitioner to help you reach an agreement. If you’re still unable to reach an agreement at this stage, the Family Court will make a decision.

Put things in perspective

If you and your former spouse have disagreements about the daily details of your parenting arrangements, try to focus on the bigger picture. Are you acting in a way that’s in the best interests of your children? Or are you acting out of anger or hurt? Remember that your children’s physical and mental health should be the first priority at all times, and use that as a guide for your decisions. If you are having difficulty in putting into perspective, you should consider whether you may benefit from some counselling.

Take your child’s age into account

The parenting arrangements you and your former partner make should take into account the age of your children, as each child’s needs will change depending on how old they are when you separate from your partner.

  • Babies and young toddlers often have a strong emotional dependence on their primary caregiver, and being separated from this parent for long periods of time may cause the child distress. As such short but frequent periods of time should be considered. This should be taken into account when making parenting arrangements.
  • Children under 6 years will be a little more independent. However, they may be emotionally fragile when their parents separate, making them likely to show regression in sleeping habits, language skills or other key areas of development. Routines are important for young children, so it may comfort them to have regular days with each parent and to know when they will see them next.
  • Older children are more likely to be able to express their feelings and talk through them with both parents. Kids in this age range often engage in activities outside the family, such as sports or music lessons. Try to make sure your parenting arrangements allow kids to continue their social activities no matter which parent is caring for them.
  • Teens are more independent from their parents, so they should be given enough space to work through their own feelings about a separation. Parenting arrangements should be flexible enough that teens can keep up their normal social activities and events.

The court’s view on parenting arrangements

Where appropriate, the Family Law Act aims for both parents to be involved in a child’s life in a meaningful way. However, the Court’s primary focus will always be what is in the child’s best interest. If it believes that the child’s safety is at risk, the Court may deny a parent from contacting their child. In general, the Court will consider the following when it makes a decision about a parenting order:

  • Is the child safe and protected from harm?
  • If both parents are involved in the child’s life, will this be beneficial for the child?
  • Should both parents have shared responsibility for decisions about the child’s care and welfare?
  • What is each parent’s attitude towards the other parent and parenting generally?
  • Is a child mature enough to have their views considered when making parenting arrangements?

Get advice from a Family Lawyer

The most important thing to do if you want the best for your children is to seek legal advice from a reliable lawyer. Paterson & Dowding is a Perth based firm of Family Lawyers and Divorce Lawyers with experience in parenting matters such as child support, living and care arrangements, family violence and more. They understand that your children are your main priority, and they will provide you with practical advice to ensure the best outcome for your family. To speak to Paterson & Dowding, call 08 9226 3300 or visit www.patersondowding.com.au

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