“When you harshly criticize your spouse, or ex-spouse in front of your children, you are attacking their DNA.”

Gary Neuman

black and white connected hands love

Let’s talk the ‘gentle ways to co-parent in the midst of your separation’. 

A marriage or partnership coming to a halt is one of the toughest moments we can face as adults. I feel pretty confident in saying that most of us know the pain of a breakup. It takes a lot of bravery to break up with your partner. And it takes even more, to split a family in two, where children are involved, regardless of how right the decision is.

So, what are the gentle ways to co-parent in the midst of what may feel like an utter shit storm? 

Breakups are hard. I know, right? I’m stating the obvious. 

But for those of you who are smiling on the outside, winning at surviving, but crumbling on the inside, being ‘strong’ isn’t always easy. I want you to feel the feelings. Be a mess. Cry.

Process what has just happened. 

I get it. It’s almost impossible to think straight. 

The irony is in life, the times that we feel so crushed, are the times that we need to be organised more than ever. You might be the do-er, the fixer, and nailing your divorce spreadsheet, but finding order is not so easy. 

A little-known fact about me – I worked in various capacities in Family Law for 25 years. I know the family law system upside down and inside out. I lived, loved and breathed law. Sometimes, I wasn’t able to separate the client from the heart, and it was difficult to see the fear in my clients faces, as they moved through a messy divorce. 

Cue, the Divorce and Separation Hub

Not every divorce is a tornado, but the unknowing is 100% real. 

When I was in the midst of my own breakup, I went from advisor to divorcee. There is no amount of professional experience that can cushion the blow of an impending divorce. Even now, years down the track, I am still learning how to coparent. Gees, I am still learning how to be an adult (#workinprogress).

You might say, but ‘where do I start?’ 

Do I need an accountant, a lawyer, a therapist or all three?

‘How am I going to get through this?’

And, lastly, and most importantly if you have children …

‘What about the children?’ 

First and foremost, get up close and personal with your facts and fears. You are going to hear a lot of legal jargon flown around, so I want to make this step a little softer.

Let me break down the legal jargon for you

What is a Parenting Order? A parenting order is an order made by the court detailing the arrangements for your children.

What are Consent Orders? When both parents agree to a parenting order being made, an application is made to the Court for parenting orders to be made by agreement. The result of this is a consent order. A parenting order is legally binding and enforceable.

What is a Parenting Plan? A parenting plan is an informal document setting out the arrangements for your children. It can include all the things that a consent order or parenting order may include, such as where the children will live, who the children will spend time with, medical care, school arrangements, travel arrangements or religious issues. A parenting plan, whilst it is recognised in the Family Law Act, it cannot be enforced by a Court, confusing right? Generally speaking, this means that if you or your ex decide that you don’t want to comply with the parenting plan, no one can force you to do so.

Consent Orders versus a Parenting Plan, which is better for you? This really is a matter for you. The real difference between the two, is one is a court order (Parenting Order, either be consent or court ordered) and one is an informal agreement, a bit like a promise to do something. Both should be drafted with the best interests of your children in mind.

From me to you, I want to share some simple but sustainable tips on how to break up better when your children are learning to heal.

Words are everything: Do you and your ex communicate well? Are you willing to set aside ego for what is in your children’s best interests? Ego doesn’t belong in your parenting plan, your home and dare I say your heart.

Be bendy with arrangement but not with your boundaries: Are you both willing to be flexible in the arrangements for your children and their best interests? Remember what I love most, BOUNDARIES. Boundaries need to be set super early on in the separation. Remember, boundaries are kind, and want the best for you. Create them firmly, but with mutual respect.

The children come first. Always: What are your children’s needs? Are they the priority in the separation and divorce? If you are in discussions with your ex, and not necessarily about the needs of your children, indirectly, your decisions will always impact your children. Every conversation comes with a decision. And decisions can hurt or heal.

Children see it differently: Consider your childrens’ age and their level of maturity as you enter into parenting plans. You get it, they might not. And in a way, they don’t need to understand every choice made. But they are seeing the world through very confused and different eyes. Lessen the impact by lessening the whirlwind. Move slowly, and see your children as your ultimate ‘why’.

Lastly, when you start to make parenting arrangements for your children, it’s important that you make sure the arrangements are in your children’s best interest, not yours and not your ex’s.

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