Having a written agreement that explains your expectations for the children and how you are going to communicate with each other about them can help to stop things getting difficult, and makes sure you are both clear on what to expect from each other.
What are your aims in making the arrangements for your children?
Other parents have said:
- Our children have a right to a relationship with both of us
- We are both committed to our children spending time with each of us
- We are both committed to taking account of our children’s wishes and feelings about the arrangements we make
- We will avoid drawing our children into our disagreements
- Our children have a right to a relationship with both of our families
The first things to think about:
- Where will your children live?
- When will they spend time with each of you?
- How will you tell them about the arrangements you have made for them?
Will you tell them together or separately?
- How will you deal with any changes to these arrangements? It is a good idea to think about a minimum period of time for notifying the other parent of changes, and how your children will be informed
- Will anyone else look after your children (e.g. childminders, babysitters, relatives, new partners, friends and neighbours) and if so, when?
- Will there be phone calls, text messages and emails between each of you and your children?
- Are there any important rules that you consider essential for the children (e.g. bedtimes, when homework is done, staying out late etc.)? Do you each agree that these rules are followed?
- What arrangements have you made for your children to spend time with friends, relatives and other family members?
What are the ‘blocks’ to agreement?
When emotions run high around the time of separation, it often feels as if communication between you has broken down completely and that there is no possibility of agreeing on anything. This is a normal feeling.
It’s therefore a very good idea to think about what you are aiming for when making arrangements for your children, and listening to their wishes and worries. To do this, you may need to find some support, such as individual counselling or parenting support to help you come to terms with the situation. You also need to work through some key questions and issues. You will probably find this easier to do if you can talk things through with a third party who is more objective Pro-Contact offers a range of Services that could help with this.
Are there any arrangements which are agreed between you?
Before focusing on what is not agreed, think about whether there are any aspects of the arrangements which are agreed between you.
Is there any scope for compromise?
Once you are clear about what is not agreed, you will need to decide which things you can compromise on, and which you can’t. Things do change after you split up. Things will not be ideal. Your feelings about your former partner will also change in time, as will theirs about you.
When will you review the agreement?
Both you and your children will change and grow, just because an agreement works well now, it may not in the future, by setting a time to review your agreement you can ensure that changes can be agreed together, and a new plan made that works better for you children.