Co-Parenting after Separation
The process of divorce or separation may cause a harmful impact on children. It is important to minimise conflict to the furthest extent possible. When parents are able to work together in a co-operative manner, the risk of negative emotions may be reduced and both parties will be able to play an active role in their child’s life.
It is usual to experience a range of emotions following separation or divorce, but it is important to put the child’s best interests first. It is advised that parents are careful how they communicate with each other in their children’s presence. If possible it is best not to involve them in any arguments or heated discussions to prevent them from becoming overburdened with adult information. Parents should be careful not to adversely influence the child’s judgment by criticising, blaming, judging or speaking negatively about each other.
It is common for a child to feel sad during this period and to perceive the separation or divorce as their fault. It is important to reassure them that it is not their fault and that they are still loved by both parents. Children should be encouraged to express and deal with their emotions in healthy ways such as discussing their feelings with someone they trust. It is helpful to monitor their emotions by paying attention to actions and behavior. If needed the parents should seek professional advice from a counsellor.
Although it is usual that the children will live with their primary carer, both parents should where possible remain consistently involved in the life and activities of their children. Arrangements such as where the child will live must be agreed in advance. Parents should talk to the children to understand their wishes and keep them informed of the arrangements; in particular of how and when they will get to spend time with each parent. It is important to maintain a balance between flexibility and structure. Having a close support system can help, as well as continuing routines and interaction with friends and family. Important decisions concerning the child’s education or medical care should be made jointly, but where this is not possible the other parent should always be consulted.
Parents are strongly advised to take part in the Separating Parents Information Programme, a course which helps parents learn how to cope with fundamental conflicts and difficulties following separation. A court also has the power to order parents to attend the programme. Parents should not attend the same sessions. A list of local providers can be found on the Cafcass website.
Following separation, it is best to come to a mutual arrangement that is likely to work in the long term. The parties are strongly advised to contact a family mediator or a solicitor to help achieve this.
At Oliver Fisher we have a friendly and experienced team of family law professionals based in Notting Hill Gate. We understand family needs and endeavour to help the parties to reach an amicable agreement without additional stress.
By Kimya Asadi, Trainee Solicitor, 14th February 2017.