Avoiding future conflict
When relationships break down and there are children involved, the most beneficial thing you can do is to make your parenting plans with their best interests at heart. You need to leave your conflict in the past and focus on the best future for your children.
A Parenting Plan (or custody agreement) sets out the agreed timetable and practices for the living of children with separated parents. This enables the children to 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.
The purpose of the Parenting Plan (what used to be a custody agreement) is to help parents avoid future conflicts. Disagreement can occur when vague guidelines or unstated expectations about responsibilities relating to the children are not clearly agreed by the parents. This can cause distress to your children.
What’s in a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan may include:
- 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 together 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.
The interests of your children should be at the forefront of every decision when determining your Parenting Plan.
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