Your children are the most precious thing in your life. Their needs must come above yours and those of your husband, wife or partner. Children must always be your primary consideration during your separation and later on when you divorce. Everything needs to be about supporting them as you sort out your affairs. Family Law deals with parental responsibility, and where the children live. Child Support is part of Services Australia and is responsible for assessing the ongoing financial support needs of children. They are are primarily interested in the welfare of the children. It is immaterial whether the parents are married, same-sex, or de-facto. We have expertise in all these areas.
Children and Parenting Orders
Binding Child Support Agreement.
A Binding Child Support Agreement (BCSA) will help you to secure the amount of child support you will receive. We can help you to develop and negotiate your Binding Child Support Agreement. A BSCA is a legally binding agreement between you and your former spouse or partner for the payment of child support, with terms that suit your needs, and give you certainty.
Your Children are Precious
We can help with parenting arrangements after separation and divorce, whether it’s simply advising about a child’s rights under the Family Law Act to have a relationship with both parents and significant others. We can assist in drafting and negotiating a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders, or if you need to go to court.
Children will react in different ways to your separation depending on their age and their natural temperament but if they see cooperation and harmony between their parents it will always be easier for them.
Small children often won’t be able to understand what’s going on and will simply reflect the emotion they see around them. If there is a lot of shouting and emotion, they will react badly to that. If you are calm, even if you are upset inside, it will be easier for them.
Sometimes younger children may behave in a regressive way, and appear clingy with one parent. This doesn’t mean they don’t love the other parent, or shouldn’t be around them. If you are the preferred carer at this time, it doesn’t mean that in the long term the other parent won’t be more involved in the child’s life. Consider how you will normalise the relationship between the child and the other parent as in almost all cases both parents will play major parts in the child’s life. Keeping things as normal as possible during separation is going to make it easier for the child (the primary goal) to move between their parents’ homes later on. It’s not about you, it’s about the children.
If you are the remote parent in this situation, don’t worry. If your matter does become adversarial and ends up in court a child psychologist or court-appointed counsellor or family consultant will be able to make recommendations and give feedback about how things can be brought back to normal, even if it takes a bit of time. If things are difficult with the children around the time of separation, it does not necessarily mean that’s how it will be in the long term.
Older children know what’s going on and can react in very different ways. Some may want to go with a parent who is leaving; others may become withdrawn, angry and even aggressive. Some children become very alienated from one parent because they may take another parent’s side, particularly if new partners are on the scene. Their studies can suffer, they may think about running away, they may act delinquently, or in unusual and unpredictable ways – they may not appear to be the child you love and know. Your most important job is to help them through this and not to become so focused on your own problems that you forget about them and theirs.
Parenting and Going to Court
If your matter goes to court, depending on the ages of the children, they may have an opportunity to give their views to a number of experts such as children’s lawyers, a court-appointed psychologist, or a legal family report writer. Children will sometimes tell these third parties something completely different to what they will tell their mum or dad – sometimes they really need to talk to an independent third party. The views of your children can be taken into account when working out what arrangements suit them. Sometimes these arrangements may not be what either parent wanted and may not sound ‘fair’. But at the end of the day, remember, this is about what’s best for them.
What’s Best for the Children?
Almost always, if it is possible, children are initially better off remaining in the family home. This is a familiar and safe place for them, at least to start with, whilst they adjust to the new situation. Allowing them to spend extra time with their close friends can be helpful, and you should consider seeking out friends to assist who have a stable family life – especially if the family is a settled, blended family, so they can see that what is happening to them is not going to be the end of the world. If your children feel supported, and if you help them to maintain relationships with friends, grandparents, and other relatives, they can quickly adapt.
What will you tell the children and when?
Your separation may not be a surprise to you (if you are the person wanting to leave) but you will need to spend some time planning how you are going to help the kids through this time in advance, because it nearly always comes as a shock, and they will need time to adjust. Think about when you will tell them, the words you will use, and don’t be blaming. Give them time to process the information and expect them to be very emotional. Try to anticipate their questions, and make sure they know they can come to you again and again for more information and detail, as they think of their questions. We can advise about a number of Government and non-Government service providers who offer services that can help at this time, including courses and workshops for separated parents, courses for teenagers, and other counselling services.
Manipulation of children.
Some parents try to turn the children against the other parent. It is really important you do not do this, that you don’t talk negatively about the other parent or any new partner. It can have a long lasting impact on the children, and if you do there is a high likelihood that if the Family Court becomes involved, child psychologists will find out what’s been said. This can adversely affect future access arrangements.
What Do Children Need?
Children need the continuing care and support of both parents. They will worry less if you can agree about what is going to happen and explain why to them. You both should:
- reassure your children that you both still love them
- remember that accepting and dealing with the separation will enable you to better assist your children to do the same
- allow your children the right to love both of you – never try to make them choose
- children often blame themselves, especially when parents fight about them or things they have done – tell them they are not to blame and help them to discuss their feelings
- listen sympathetically to your children’s feelings and opinions without judgement
- talk with the other parent about issues relating to your children
- make sure your children don’t hear or see you fighting
- keep your children out of your arguments with the other parent
- keep your children out of negative-sounding discussions about the other parent
- be positive about the other parent when talking to your children
- turn to other adults for emotional support rather than to your children
- talk with uncles and aunts, grandparents, other relations and family friends about not talking negatively to your children about the other parent or the situation
- talk with your children’s teachers so they understand what’s going on
Keep your focus on your children’s well-being.