For separated parents, co-parenting can be challenging. Both parents will usually want to play a full role in their children’s lives and you will have to work together as a team to do what is in their best interests. We’ve listed below some key considerations for newly separated parents:
- The obvious starting point is to discuss and agree how the care of the child/children will be shared between you both on a weekly basis. Is it best for the child/children to spend an equal time between both homes (when you are no longer living together) or should they live primarily with one parent and have regular contact with the other? If one parent is to have primary care, will they stay with the other parent overnight, have day visits or a mix of both? Your respective work commitments will factor into these discussions.
- Once you’ve agreed how the care of the child/children will be shared, you will need to consider when and how handovers will take place. Will one of you be taking the child to school and the other doing pick up? Or will you each be taking the child/children to and from the other’s home? You will need to think about how you will make sure that the child/children have everything they need with them at the right time, for example, clothes, school bags, homework and sports kits.
- Do either of you intend to move a significant distance away? Consider what effect a move by one parent may have on a new or existing care arrangement. How far will the child/children have to travel between both homes or to school? Will both homes still be within easy travelling distance of their various hobbies? It’s also important to think about whether any move might impact on the school catchment area for an upcoming move to primary or high school.
- Should the term time arrangement be different from how their care is shared during holidays? Although it may be practical for the child/children to spend more time in one home during the school week, holidays can be dealt with differently. If you are planning to go on a holiday away from home, early planning and sharing the details with the other parent in advance is key. The consent of the other parent will also be needed for any trip out with the UK. Our blogs relating to Christmas and Summer offer practical tips around holidays and are worth revisiting as Easter approaches.
- Children benefit from the love and support of their wider family. It’s important for children that these relationships are nurtured. Do the arrangements for their care facilitate time with any step-siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins?
- What nursery or school will the child/children attend moving forward? If there are fees to be paid, how will these be divided between you? How will any school costs (fees, uniforms, books and trips) be shared between you?
- How will you share information about issues regarding the child/children’s health, welfare, education and social life with the other parent? For example, any feedback from school, upcoming birthday parties or playdates, school trips, doctor/dentist appointments and haircuts. Will these discussions take place at handovers, or by text, phone or email? It’s important to find a way of communicating that works so both parents are fully involved and kept up to date.
- How will you deal with special occasions, such as birthdays, Christmas, religious or cultural celebrations and mothers and fathers days? These are often a point of contention because of the emotional attachment.
- Decisions about the child/children’s health and wellbeing is a matter for both parents. Let the doctor, dentist and optician know about your separation so both addresses are listed on their records. A decision will need to be made about how any appointments are arranged and information from those should be shared. If your child has any particular health needs, make sure you’re both fully up to date about their care and know the details of any mediation or treatment required.
- Let the child/children’s nursery or school know that they now have two homes. It’s important that information is communicated to both parents so that you are both involved in parents evenings, sports days and school shows, whether you attend those together or separately. It will also alert the school to any difficulties the child/children may be experiencing following the change in family circumstances and allow them to provide proper support.
There are many considerations for newly separated parents, and trying to reach agreement when relations are strained can be difficult. Mediation, although not appropriate in every case, offers a good forum for parents to air any concerns whilst working together to reach agreement with the help of a neutral third party. A solicitor can also help you navigate through these difficult decisions.
If you would like to speak to someone in our Family Law team about any of the issues raised above, or about any other matter in relation to your child’s care, please get in touch.