Five co-parenting pitfalls and how to avoid them

By amica

Five co-parenting pitfalls and how to avoid them

In the past, many couples may have stayed together ‘for the sake of their children’, but we now know ‘separating for their sake’ can sometimes be a better approach.

One of the tricky parts of a separation is that parents need to make parenting arrangements together, even when they are not a couple anymore. Putting your children’s best interests at the centre of your parenting arrangements is essential, but what does that look like in practice?

That’s where a parenting agreement comes in. A parenting agreement is a voluntary agreement that helps everyone know where they stand and what to expect. It covers the day-to-day responsibilities of each parent and the practical considerations of a child’s daily life. It also states how parents will agree and consult on important long-term issues about their children and it can be changed at any time as long as both parents agree. In fact it’s a good idea to change your parenting agreement as your children grow and their needs evolve.

Before you agree on your parenting arrangements, here are five essential areas to consider.

1. It’s all about the kids

The most fundamental part of parenting arrangements is that they should be in your children’s best interests. It’s best to focus on your children’s wellbeing now and into the future. When working out what’s in the children’s best interests it’s helpful to think about things like the children’s age, who is best placed to provide day-to-day care for the children, any additional needs, cultural practices, and the children’s own opinions and choices. The number one issue is always children’s safety.

2. How you will communicate

Communicating well is one of the most critical parts to maintaining a positive and collaborative parenting relationship. Too often, separating couples don’t agree on a communication method and rhythm, instead leaving it to just ‘sort itself out’.

A better approach is to plan ahead. Text and email can work well for many by keeping things simple, but picking up the phone or speaking face to face is usually better when more discussion is needed. Think carefully about which communication approaches you prefer and agree on what works best for you both ahead of time.

3. Drop off and pick up times and places

If you talk to parents who are separated, you’ll know that drop off and pick up arrangements can be an ongoing source of tension. Some couples prefer somewhere neutral, and others are happy to do it at home. The main thing to think about is what works best for your family. If you’d prefer not to visit each other’s home, public places can be a good idea, such as a park or sports field, or a shopping centre carpark.

Scheduling is important too. For example, what about extra-curricular school activities? How will you avoid leaving each other or your children in the lurch? How will you align your schedules when things change at the beginning of a new school term or sporting season?

4. Unexpected costs and expenses

Raising children can be expensive, and beyond regular child support payments there might be unexpected or additional costs that aren’t covered from time to time. This could be things like school camps, sports equipment and fees or special events. Your preferred payment method and timings should be discussed as well.

5. Being open when things change

Things like family emergencies or work events are bound to pop up, and as your children grow their needs change and your parenting arrangements must too. Your parenting agreement is an opportunity to decide how to handle things like this in advance of a specific situation. That way, you have a pathway for dealing with the unexpected. This helps with good communication, which is good for the kids, and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

About amica

amica is a smart and simple online tool to guide separating couples through parenting, property and money decisions in an amicable way. Go to amica.gov.au.

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