Communicating with a co-parent post Child Arrangements Order - Family Law Partners

Communicating with a co-parent post Child Arrangements Order

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You’ve reached an agreement with your co-parent as to how the children are to spend time with you both after your separation, you’ve both moved on and you’ve started the next chapter of your lives, but now what?

Whether you’ve been able to agree child arrangements amicably or whether you’ve needed the input of lawyers or the court, it’s important to remember that life is unpredictable and any agreement or order is unlikely to cover every eventuality. Co-parenting is challenging and there will be times when you and your co-parent will need to make decisions about your child’s life.

The key, in many situations, is planning ahead and implementing strategies to help you manage decision-making when apart.

Parenting Plan

When parenting apart, it is often helpful for you and your partner to agree upon a plan as to how you wish your children to be raised. If parents are not living together, the opportunities to discuss parenting choices, such as whether or not your child should have a flu jab, are limited.

A written parenting plan, not only sets out the practical arrangements for your children, it creates a point of reference for parents and helps each parent understand what is expected of them.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (known as ‘CAFCASS’) have a template on their website, along with a number of tips and tricks, to help you put together a written plan. A link to these resources may be found here: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-together/parenting-plan/

The CAFCASS guidance lists a number of categories that as parents you will need to consider and asks you questions to guide you through how you wish to approach each decision, with the intention that you identify any areas you are able to agree on and others which you may need assistance with. You can take a look at a helpful guide for putting together a parenting plan for parents and this discusses in further detail how to approach doing so: https://www.familylawpartners.co.uk/blog/building-a-successful-parenting-plan-a-tool-kit-for-separated-parents

Co-Parenting Apps

C0-parenting can represent a number of logistical challenges, particularly if you find communicating with your co-parent difficult. Thankfully, there are now a range of apps that are available which aim to alleviate these difficulties, including Our Family Wizard.

Many apps feature messaging services, shared calendars, and an information log allowing you to easily access things like your child’s medical information and important contact numbers. The purpose of these apps is to have a central record of all information, accessible by both parents, so everyone knows what is happening and when. In turn, this should help to minimise stress and confusion, reduce conflict and promote a better co-parenting relationship.

Parenting Coordinators

For some families, communication is incredibly challenging. This means that even where there is a court order in force, which sets out the day-to-day routine for the children and over special periods, such as Christmas, Easter and birthdays, there will still be times that further decisions will need to be made, a court order is a brief document and cannot cover every eventuality.

A parenting coordinator is a specially trained professional who helps parents to facilitate discussions between themselves in order to help them make decisions, but unlike a mediator, if this proves impossible they can make a decision for them. Parenting coordination is child-focused and intends to minimise conflict for families.

Although parents will need to agree to appoint the parenting coordinator, once a formal contract has been entered into, there will be a written confirmation of the scope of the work the parenting coordinator will undertake along with an authorisation, allowing the parenting coordinator to make binding decisions when necessary.

Mediation

Many parents find that they need the assistance of a third party to allow them to constructively reach agreements and mediation does just that. A trained mediator provides you and your co-parent with a supportive environment to discuss the arrangements for your children, whilst allowing you the flexibility and creativity to come to decisions that suit your family.

As mediation is an entirely voluntary process, there is no limit to the number of sessions you can attend. You may wish to plan to attend mediation sessions, perhaps on an annual or biannual basis, to help you and your co-parent decide upon the arrangements for the upcoming months. This can be particularly helpful in circumstances when the day-to-day arrangements have been agreed, but you need help to make the key decisions as your child grows and their needs change.

Specific Issues

It is important to recognise that there may well be some situations, whereby big decisions need to be made which may not be covered by your Child Arrangements Order, for example, where a child should attend school or if they should be allowed to relocate to another county or even country when a parent gets a new job.

Parents are encouraged to seek to agree the arrangements for their children themselves but in circumstances where parents cannot agree, then you may wish to explore out-of-court options such as arbitration, lawyer-led negotiations, or the collaborative model. Additionally, the court has the power to make what is known as a Specific Issue Order, although reverting to court should usually be the last resort for parents.

Enforcement

Lastly, in cases where you have court-ordered arrangements for your children that have completely broken down, you may wish to consider making an application to court for enforcement. This is a fairly draconian step and is often only considered to be appropriate when all other means of resolving the issues have been exhausted.

If having considered the evidence, the court deems there to have been a breach of a child arrangements order without good reason, there are a number of orders that may be made including a referral to a Separate Parents Information Programme, Mediation, varying the existing order and where necessary, imposing fines or committing a party to prison. These issues are addressed further in this blog ‘Enforcing a Child Arrangements Order’.

How we can help?

At Family Law Partners, our specialist lawyers understand that every family is unique and the importance of having arrangements in place which work for you and your children. If you are concerned about parenting post-separation, then please contact our expert solicitors who can discuss your situation further.

 

 

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