Mediation & Dispute Resolution
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If you have separated, the very best thing you can do for your children is to have their best interests at heart.
A Parenting Plan (or custody agreement) sets out the agreed timetable and practices for the living arrangements of children with separated parents, helping them feel more secure and confident about what is going to happen next.
Some parents find it more productive to have a third party help them negotiate an agreed Parenting Plan.
What’s in a Parenting Plan?
The purpose of the Parenting Plan (what used to be a custody agreement) is to help parents avoid future conflicts arising from vague guidelines or unstated expectations about responsibilities relating to the children such as:
- who your children will live with and what time your children will spend with each parent
- the time your children will spend with others such as grandparents, siblings, step-parents or significant others who are important to your children
- the activities each of you will do with your children (e.g. sports, homework, music) and whether both of you can agree to attend some important events simultaneously with your children
- how you will share parental responsibility and decision making about the big things (e.g. what school your children will go to, healthcare decisions)
- how you will talk about and come to agreement on the important, long-term issues as your children grow, their needs change or either parent’s circumstances change
- how your children will keep in touch with the other parent and other people important to your children when they are with you
- what arrangements need to be made for special occasions such as birthdays, religious or cultural events, holidays, graduation days
- financial arrangements for the children including Child Support or Centrelink payments
- an agreed process that can be followed to change the Parenting Plan or resolve problems if your children or either parent is not happy with the plan at a later date.
A clear Parenting Plan is not only important for parents, it is equally important for children to know that there is a clear plan in place for them.
When determining your Parenting Plan, the most important thing you can do is to place the interests of your children at the forefront of every decision.
How do we agree on what’s in the best interests of the children?
When appropriate and if both parents consent, school aged children are offered a private consultation (called Child Informed Mediation) to talk about their experience of the separation, their needs, their worries and what they would like to see happen.
Their feedback is provided to the parents to help parents make decisions based on the children’s best interests. Children are never asked to make decisions or take sides. It is then up to the parents to make the best decisions for the children.
Want to find out what Family Law legal terms mean? What is ‘best interests’? What is the difference between ‘separation’ and ‘divorce’?
The Family Law TermFinder is a free and accessible instant plain language translation tool.
Got more questions?
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