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New Parenting Coordination Service Provided By Family Law Firm Melbourne

Vanessa Mathews recently trained as a ‘Parenting Coordinator’ as an additional dispute resolution service offering.

Parenting Coordination is a post-separation child-focused dispute resolution process.

Parenting Coordination is suitable for separated parents who:

  • Continue to have high levels of dispute regarding their children after the making of a Parenting Plan or Family Court Order (interim and final)
  • Are transitioning from adversarial parenting to co-parenting
  • Engage their children to express their dispute
  • Experience difficulty with relationships
  • Are at risk of:
  • Not complying with the Parenting Plan or Family Court Order (interim and final)​
  • Returning to the Family Court to re-litigate their dispute.

Parenting Coordination may assist separated parents who are experiencing difficulty:

  • Co-parenting their children
  • Making joint decisions about their children
  • Communicating effectively with each other
  • Implementing their Parenting Plan or Family Court Order (interim and final)
  • Complying with their Parenting Plan or Family Court Order (interim and final).

A Parenting Coordinator may be jointly appointed by the parents or a Family Court Order.

A Parenting Coordinator is usually appointed for 24 months with monthly joint meetings.

The purpose and role of the Parenting Coordinator is defined within the Parenting Plan or Family Court Order.

​A Parenting Coordinator assists parents by:

  • Facilizing the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner
  • Reducing conflict between parents so as to protect the children from exposure to conflict
  • Educating parents about their children’s needs
  • Making recommendations for resolving disputes
  • Case management.

Parenting Coordination is non-confidential and fully reportable to the Family Court​.

Safety concerns are addressed during Parenting Coordination.

If you would like to know more about Parenting Coordination or have a client whom you believe may benefit from Parenting Coordinator, please contact Vanessa on 1300 635 529 or vanessam@mflaw.com.au

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Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Divorce Divorce & Parenting Parenting Plans Parenting Plans Parenting Plans

Parenting Arrangements after Divorce

Parenting Arrangements

Divorce is painful for everyone concerned, especially children. During this challenging period, children need love, support and contact with both parents.

Creating certainty about the future is crucial for children when their parents separate. Parents coming to a mutual agreement about parenting arrangements can help to provide clarity and certainty.

When parents agree

Following separation, parents may agree on a parenting arrangement that works for them and the children. The agreement should focus on providing for the needs of the children and may include financial arrangements.

A parenting arrangement can be agreed orally, in writing or put into a formal court order known as ‘consent orders’ (which requires an application to the court but does not require a court appearance).

When parents don’t agree

If parents can’t agree on parenting arrangements, they can apply to the court for a parenting order. Usually (except in the case of family violence and other specific circumstances), parents are not permitted to apply for a parenting court order until they have first attempted family dispute resolution (mediation).

The court’s primary concern will be to protect the children from psychological or physical harm. The court will address this before deciding about parenting arrangements.

The Australian Government has published a book to help develop parenting plans. This resource can help prepare clear, practical parenting arrangements that are focused on what’s best for the children.

What to consider when creating a parenting agreement?

When making parenting arrangements, parents may consider a range of issues including:

  • The capacity of each parent to provide day-to-day care?
  • The age of the children?
  • The arrangements for the children before and after school and during  school holidays?
  • Will the children spend their time with other significant people in their lives, like grandparents or other relatives?
  • The children’s educational needs?
  • Any cultural considerations?
  • The special needs of the children, including educational and medical?
  • The children’s wishes, having regard to their age and stage of development?
  • Other practical considerations such as transport and accommodation expenses?

While a routine may be best for your children overall, flexibility is likely to be an essential ingredient of a parenting agreement.

Relocating with children

If you are thinking of relocating with your children at a distance that would dramatically affect the time they spend with the other parent, you will need to come to an agreement with the other parent. If agreement is not reached, an application to the family law courts seeking permission to relocate the children will be required.

The proposed relocation destination may involve moving intrastate, interstate or overseas. Consider how the relocation will affect the children’s relationship with the other parent and ask yourself the question ‘Would the move be in the children’s best interests?’ – the court will ask the same question.

What’s next?

Consider what is best for your children’s short-term and long-term wellbeing.

Work out what concerns need to be addressed in your parenting arrangement.

Decide whether you want the parenting agreement to be an informal oral or written agreement, a parenting plan signed and dated by both parents or a court order obtained by consent or by order of the court (judge made order).

Contact an accredited family law specialist or family dispute resolution practitioner to obtain the advice that you need to resolve your post-separation parenting issues.

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Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Divorce Divorce & Parenting Parenting Plans

5 signs that your child is affected by your divorce

child affected by divorce

Separation and divorce hurts. There’s no getting around that fact.

Without special care and attention, children can be the unintended victims of separation and divorce. For them, their parent’s separation can open a floodgate of emotions, which, for children of any age can be difficult to process and express.

Many of the parents we speak with of course to want to minimise the impact of their divorce on their children, but do not always know what signs to look for. So how can you identify the signs that your child may be being adversely affected by your separation and divorce?

Although every child is unique, there are some clear signs to look out for:

Your child is feeling sad and cries more than usual

Your child could be sad and cry a lot. It might be more difficult than usual to comfort them. They might cry for no reason or react disproportionately to that which to you seem to be minor issues.

The things they cry over may have nothing to do with the separation and divorce however due to difficulty in understanding and accepting the changes to their family, their ability to deal with other issues may be diminished and they can become easily upset.

Your child gets separation anxiety

You or your former partner might find that your children don’t want to leave your side, or that they want to stay with the other parent and resist going with the other parent.

Separation anxiety for children is common when parents separate. Their anxiety is a result of the significant changes they are experiencing and staying close to one or both parents is their way of managing.

Your child is overly emotional and gets angry

When parents separate, it may cause the children to feel uncertain, insecure, worried or anxious. The complex emotions they feel and their inability to express their feelings may be ‘acted out’, such as angry verbal or physical outbursts or uncooperative behavior. Helping your children to express those complex emotions can help to release the anger and improve their wellbeing and anxiety.

Your child is withdrawn and has lost interest in activities

The stress of parents separating can result in children withdrawing into themselves and refusing to engage in activities they have enjoyed in the past. Some children stop hanging out with their friends, preferring to spend all their time in their room, keeping a distance from their family and doing things by themselves.

Decline in school performance

When children are tackling a stressful situation at home, it can directly impact on their performance at school. The stress at home takes so much of their attention and energy and they may have difficulty focusing in class.

At home, they may be anxious and distracted, unable to focus on homework, negatively affecting their academic performance.

The dip in academic performance can result in further anxiety for the child; they feel terrible about falling behind, compounding the situation with another stressful situation. If your child is struggling at school after separation, it is a good idea to inform the school about the situation at home.

Conclusion

Separated parents feel responsible for their child’s suffering. Parents must remain united in their commitment to ensuring that any adverse impact on their children is kept to a minimum, and, if any are identified they are immediately met with an appropriate united response. Conflict between parents will certainly exacerbate the impact on the children, potentially dramatically.

If you detect a dramatic change in your children’s behavior and emotions, and your efforts to support them aren’t helping, please seek urgent help. Early intervention can help both you and your children to get the support required to see you through this difficult time.

Recommended Post: Family Violence and Children at Risk

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Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Divorce Divorce & Parenting Parenting Plans

Ten Tips For The Holidays

by Dr. Robin Deutsch, Psychologist

1. Have a very specific plan for the holidays so there is no opportunity for confusion or conflict. Parents may alternate or split holidays, but when there is disagreement about this plan, consider the longer view of alternating holidays by even and odd years. Holidays are often a time of heightened emotions, and the reality of the loss associated with separation or divorce is no more apparent than when parents must spend a holiday without their children or without old traditions.

2. Try to continue traditions of the past for the children. If they are accustomed to spending Christmas Eve with one extended family, try to continue that tradition, if not every year then in alternate years. Parents should consider maintaining some of the family traditions the first year after the separation, and alternating beginning the following year.

3. If you can continue some traditions together, make them clear, attending to details of who, what, where, when, and how. Some families are able to be together without conflict arising, but parents often have different expectations about the experience itself, as well as the amount of time they will be together. The most important thing for the children is that they do not experience conflict between their parents.

4. Create new traditions that feel special to the children and family. This is an opportunity for the new family configuration to establish new traditions for the holidays including creation of a special holiday celebration or experience on a day other than the actual holiday. It is also an opportunity for the adult who does not have the children, to establish new practices such as time with friends, volunteering, movie days, and travel.

5. Think long-term-what do you want your children to remember about holidays when they have their own children? For children, holidays are magical. It is often the little rituals and practices that are most memorable, such as baking a pie, playing a game or lighting the fire.

6. Remember, children’s memories include all senses what they saw, heard, smelled, tasted and touched. To the extent possible, create a memory that involves each of these senses and describe it, e.g. we always listen to this music, eat cranberry sauce, watch this movie, read this book, take this walk, and cut these branches. Do not allow conflict to enter into these memories.

7. Self-care is very important. Life for the adults has significantly changed. Find new ways to care for yourself, e.g. exercise, friends, books, movies, clubs, martial arts, dance, classes, activities that bring new energy and attention. You want to rejuvenate yourself and refocus on something to help you reconstitute yourself in your new life.

8. Keep your expectations small and be flexible. Focus on one thing that matters most to you during the holidays, e.g. some sense of connection to your family, having sometime with extended family or close friends, creating a new tradition, continuing a tradition. Your holiday time will not be the same, but you can decide that you will have one small goal that you will work toward creating or preserving. Holidays may be accompanied by unmet needs and dashed hopes. By thinking small you can manage disappointment and decrease stress.

9. Though you, the parent, may feel disoriented and lost in the changed family, keep your focus on the children and the new family constellations. Make the holidays about your children, which means helping them to feel good about spending holiday time with the other parent.

10. In ten years or twenty years, what do you want to see when you look back on these years of change? From that long view you can highlight the tone and experience of these transformed holidays. Remember, children who find holidays stressful because of the conflict between their parents, have terrible memories as adults of holidays and of special family moments. It is in your hands to create fond, pleasant memories for your children. They can be traditional or not, but the message is that you and our family are important and we find ways to celebrate and enjoy holidays.

Full attribution to Dr. Robin Deutsch provides consultation, mediation, parenting coordination and expert witness services in Wellesley, MA. She developed and was the director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law at the William James College. Previously she was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Deutsch was the co-chair of the AFCC Child Consultant Task Force. She served on both the AFCC and APA task forces that developed Guidelines for Parenting Coordination, the AFCC task force for Guidelines for Examining Intimate Partner Violence and the AFCC task force for Court-Involved Therapists. She is the past president of the Massachusetts chapter of AFCC, past president of the AFCC, and former Chair of the APA Ethics Committee.

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Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Parenting Plans

Children Want to Be Heard and Kept Informed – and Feel Safe!

In June 2018 the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) released a study ‘Children and Young People in Separated Families: Family Law System Experiences and Needs’ https://aifs.gov.au/publications/children-and-young-people-separated-families-family-law-system-experiences

The study included interviews with children and young people (10 – 17 years of age) who, as a result of family separation, had experienced the family law system.

Of particular importance to those who were interviewed was:
• For their parents to listen to them and take their views into consideration
• For the family law system to listen to them, particularly about safety concerns
• For the family law system to take them seriously
• To be better informed about the family law system
• Speaking to psychologists and counsellors during the family separation process was helpful.

The information provided contributed to the following recommendations:
• Give children and young people the choice to be involved in decision making
• Keep children and young people informed about the decision making process for example important decisions and dates
• Provide children and young children with a clear explanation of the new parenting arrangements
• Ensure children and young people have access to psychologists and counsellors during the decision making process
• Make sure that children and young children are safe and that there is scope to change the parenting arrangements.

The following video provides direct access to the voices of the children and young people: Quotes from the ‘Children and Young People in Separated Families Study’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Vaw_hVOoO8&feature=youtu.be

The process of family separation and rebuilding is undoubtedly difficult. The work of organizations like AIFS provide the ‘science’ that is needed to support developments in the complex space that we work within. Our hats go off to AIFS for their hard work, and to the children and young people who allowed us into their world.

For the best advice about your family law parenting matter or family dispute resolution, contact Vanessa Mathews on 1300 635 529or vanessam@mflaw.com.au