Welcome to Journey Family Lawyers. We are a Family-only Law firm. That means we conduct cases only in the Family Court or the Federal Magistrate's Court and that we only look after people who have separation or child residence and contact issues, including divorce and property settlement. We also conduct de facto cases with insight and dignity. If you have a difficult case that has "stumped" other lawyers, let us help. Our strong team approach to cases and our policy of only a limited number of files per lawyer means your case will get the attention it deserves. After all, we try to always remember that it is your ONLY case.
Because we do not do anything else, we believe we have the expertise that you need to have your matter handled sensitively and as quickly and smoothly as possible. Of course, this is not always possible because it does take both sides to be reasonable, but if attempts to negotiations fail, then we have broad experience in taking matters to Court and getting results. Our Information Website is www.brisbanefamilylawyers.com.au
We handle all Children's matters, Divorce, Separation, and Property matters. This includes Superannuation issues during separation and we have a strong commitment to mediation and negotiated outcomes if it is possible.
Our difference is that you will feel in control of your case while receiving all the guidance and support you need to get you through this process.
You will find all of our friendly staff to be most helpful.
HERE IS THE LATEST ARTICLE BY JFL ON CHILDRENS CASES AND IN PARTICULAR INTERIM CHILDRENS CASES. If you are facing something like this, here is a great resource. You may have to read it a few times, as there has been a real change after the case of Goode, late last year.
The Case of Goode: A new approach to Interim Parenting Arrangements
A recent decision of the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia has changed the way that Courts will deal with Interim Applications for Parenting Orders taking into account the changes to Family Law that took place in July 2006.
When most Applications for Parenting Orders are filed in the Family Court of Australia or Federal Magistrates Court of Australia, there is usually an Application for Interim Orders contained with it. This is because, at the moment, it’s taking about one and a half years to two years for an Application for Parenting Orders to proceed to trial in the Family Court and about one year to one and a half years in the Federal Magistrates Court (at least in a Brisbane Registry). Steps are being taken by both Courts to try and speed that process up. But in the meantime, Interim Orders are likely to apply for a significant period of time.
Interim hearings are, by their nature, limited. There is no cross-examination of witnesses (the Court only looks at the Affidavit material provided by the parties). The hearings are limited to a maximum of two hours including reading time. Interim hearings are usually heard in the context of a number of hearings listed before a Federal Magistrate or the Judicial Registrar of the Family Court in one day.
Interim hearings are usually held about six weeks after the date of filing depending on individual circumstances. In the Family Court, a case assessment conference with a Family Consultant and a Registrar may have been undertaken and/or there may have been an appointment with a Family Consultant prior to the interim hearing.
On the 15th of December 2006, the Family Court of Australia delivered the decision of Goode & Goode  FamCA1346 (15th December 2006). This was a decision on appeal from a single Judge of the Family Court of Australia in Parramatta in relation to an interim decision for two children, T (8 years of Age) and J (2 years of age). Essentially, the Court found that it should continue the existing arrangements that were in place as at the date of the interim hearing pending a final decision. Those arrangements had been that children live with the Mother and spend some time with the Father that was largely confined to the “traditional” regime of alternate weekends, school holidays and the like.
Family Law Practitioners have been using the formula that the Judge at first instance used which comes from a 1999 case called Cowling. It provided that, at an interim hearing:
a) An Order which promotes the child’s stability when living in a well-settled environment should be made unless there are strong or over-riding indications relevant to the child’s welfare - the contrary???; and
b) In the event that the child is not living in a well-settled environment as at the day of the hearing, the Court undertakes a limited examination of the relevant factors that were [then] used to determine the best interests of a child or children to ensure the result promotes the child’s best interests.
In most cases, this meant that the arrangements that had been in place since the separation would continue unless some exceptional circumstances applied, such as there being good evidence of family violence, abuse, neglect or such other similar factor.
No doubt, you will be aware that the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 came into effect on the 1st of July 2006. Much has been said about what the amendments actually mean but, for Lawyers, the process of interpreting the amendments still underway.
In particular, the principles that were applied at an interim hearing had or should have been, up until the 15th of December, exactly the same as that applied prior to 1st of July. The decision of Goode changes the formula for use at an interim hearing.
Things that are the same about an interim hearing:
Goode’s case reminds us that interim proceedings are as they were and are unchanged. This is helpful as there are some suggestions that interim hearings would become “mini-trials” in which the substantiate Applications of parties would be heard.
However, it is still the case in interim proceedings:
a) That they are limited to two hours;
b) That the Court can not make or should not make findings of fact, as a general proposition, where such facts are contested;
c) There will still be no cross-examination; and
d) The Court will still proceed just on the Affidavit material of the parties, any documents that are tendered and the submissions of the parties or their legal representatives.
The new formula:
Goode’s case says that the “status-quo” or “stability” arguments can no longer be made. It is not good enough for a Court on an interim basis to simply make a finding based on the available evidence and the uncontested facts of certain arrangements that have taken place post-separation and merely preserve those arrangements until a final hearing. In practice, this might mean that it is more likely that the Court will make Orders for equal time on an interim basis. In our view, it is more likely the Court will make Orders for a child to spend substantial and significant time but may be a little reluctant to Order equal time.
The Family Law Act as it is now written says, that there is a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. That presumption can usually only be rebutted if there is evidence of abuse, family violence or, in an interim case, unless the Court considers it would not be appropriate for the presumption to be applied when making that Order, or it is simply not in the best interests of the child or children.
If there is equal shared parental responsibility, then the child or children will spend either equal time with each of the parents or substantial and significant time with the person with whom the child does not live. “Substantial and significant time” means more than just alternate weekends and half school holidays but does not necessarily mean equal time.
Having taken those relevant sections into account, the Court has indicated that an interim hearing the Court should follow the following formula:
1. Identify the competing proposals of all the parties;
2. Identifying the agreed or uncontested relevant facts (these will be given the most weight);
3. Identify the issues in dispute at the interim hearing;
4. Consider the matters in Section 60CC (The section deals with the best interests of the children) that are relevant and make findings about them if possible on the uncontested material (and this may not be possible);
5. Deciding whether the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility applies. If it does not, finding on the available evidence that there is abuse of a child, family violence or it’s simply not appropriate to apply;
6. If presumption does apply, deciding whether it is rebutted because application of it would not be in the child’s best interests;
7. If the presumption applies and is not rebutted, considering making an Order that the child spend equal time, or substantial and significant time, with both parents;
8. If equal time or substantial and significant time is not appropriate, then making such Orders are in the best interest of the child; and
9. If the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility is rebutted and such other Orders that may be in the best interests of the child or children.
What sort of findings can the Court make on an interim basis?
It’s important to consider what sort of findings a Court can really make at an interim hearing. You will find it very unlikely that a Court will make a positive finding at an interim hearing about matters such as drug use, alcoholism or general allegations of neglect (unless really substantiated elsewhere). An example of what sort of findings the Court might make on an interim basis is provided in Goode’s case and it is as follows:
1. T attends school and J attends childcare on three days a week on Monday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm when the mother works;
2. Since separation, the Father has been spending time with the children each alternate weekend from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon and with the child T on Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon each week;
3. The Mother proposes that T spends one half of the school holidays with the Father and J spend block periods of four (4) consecutive days with the Father including two (2) such blocks during school holidays;
4. T spends one half of the July school holidays with the Father;
5. The Mother lives in the former family home and the Father lives with his parents close to the school, day-care and the former family home;
6. The Father has the assistance of his parents to care for the children and works in his family business with them; and
7. The Mother conceded that there was no issues of risk to the children, the only issue was the amount of time that the Children should spend with the Father.
Conclusion – Is this a change or not?
It will remain to be seen whether on a day-to-day basis the Family Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court will change the way they make Interim Determinations in parenting cases. While Goode’s case provides a new formula, the outcome could well be exactly the same as it was under the old principals of Cowling applying the Family Law Act as it existed. Parties coming to Family Law proceedings and Family Law practitioners will need to be aware though, that if Orders are being sought that do not involve a child or children spending equal time or substantial time with both parents, they will need to be a very good reason why such orders should not be made.
Journey Family Lawyers 20/12/2006
Disclaimer: this document is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal. This is not intended to be used a substitute for any legal advice. Not of the author nor Journey Brisbane Family Lawyers take any responsibility for any representation of fact or law or any opinion expressed here in. You should seek independent legal advice about your rights, obligations and entitlements prior to taking any steps in relation to a Family Law matters.
This work is subject to copyright.
+ THE PREVIEW OF A NEW BOOK BY LYNETTE GALVIN +
One day you are part of a couple – sure you fight a bit, who doesn’t, but you are sharing responsibilities like kids or mortgage and you come home to each other at night. You have always managed to sort through your problems before and you had no reason to think this time was any different when ... BAM! ... Someone said those fateful words that ended it.
Your marriage may have ended through indifference or through an affair or maybe just got too hard for one of you. Whatever the reason, it is over and you are stunned. Your marriage is finished. Gone. Over. The big question is" what do you do about it?".
I decided to write this book after nearly 20 years practicing in Family Law in Australia. I realised that a lot of the common sense advice given daily in my practice to my clients would be more helpful if it could be accessed as and when it was needed. You know what it is like. You may not yet have been to a Lawyer. Or you may have been to one and not really remembered what he/she said. I suspect it is a bit like going to a Doctor for bad news. You have been to a Doctor where he has carefully explained your condition and treatment and you go home and realise you have forgotten half of what he said. The same happens with your Family Lawyer, only you are in such an emotional state sometimes I think you remember less. Also your visits are often for an hour or more and can cover many areas of your situation such as children, property and child support and it is tough to recall all of this afterwards. I often wonder how much of my good advice, especially the practical stuff is forgotten almost at once.
So this book is a kind of guide by your side with information when you need it. There is a little bit of legal information but general only, since every case is different and there are plenty of legal books available if you need further in-depth legal advice.
What this book offers is what other books don’t. Practical strategies to get you and your family through this difficult time in one emotional piece and with the least possible financial cost. It draws on my years of experience as a Family Lawyer, Mother, Teacher and also on my experience, as a Single Parent, Step Parent and Divorcee, so I know something of what you are about to experience. If my experience can ease the way for you, then this book has already achieved its aim.
TO DO TODAY!
So, your partner is gone. It is over, and you wake up alone, If you slept anyway. This is the first day of your new life and whether you view it through a veil of tears, or with relief, there are things you have to do – today – no matter how hard it is.
The first thing is to make contact with your bank as soon as you can and block any further redraws of any line of credit account you may have after ensuring that you can still draw enough to live on. Don’t actually block off the whole account so that the wages that have just gone in are inaccessible, leaving you both broke. Find a sympathetic bank assistant and enlist their help to take the necessary steps. The point is, that you don’t want your ex to be able to clean out the whole account without your permission, so joint signatories may be the way to go. It is up to you, talk to your bank.
If you feel it is necessary, put holds on your credit cards (and advise your ex you have done so). Change your internet banking password and open your own account to have your wages banked into (you can always transfer funds to the mortgage or joint account to cover your obligations) as you need money to live on.
In the first few weeks, take steps to have your name taken off any phone or electricity accounts attached to the house where your ex lives (this may need his co-operation). A draft letter to him is annexure “*” at the back of this book together with addresses and phone numbers of various phone companies and electricity authorities in each state (Appendix 1).
In some separations the battle lines are drawn pretty clearly. We have all heard horror stories where the Father comes home to find the house empty and Mum has gone with the kids and all the furniture, cleared out of the bank account and may or may not have left a note telling him not to try to contact her. If the Husband does try to contact her he ends up with a Domestic Violence Order Application filed against him. He ends up angry, confused and hurt.
The mother often justifies such a course of action by referring to allegations of the father’s domestic violence in the marriage but, whether or not such action is justified, I have observed that there is absolutely no trust left between the parties after such a violent separation so there is almost no prospect of resolving property or children’s issues without ending up in Court. I often wonder if there could have been some other way to accomplish both the safety of the Mother and Children and the dignity of the Father. One way is to open up a dialogue with the ex to begin resolving issues and restoring or maintaining trust.
Another type of separation scenario is the one in which the parties decide that they will continue to co-parent and share responsibilities for their finances in much the same way as though they were, still married. This stems from a desire, I think, to cause minimal disruption to the children and often, if the instigating party is the breadwinner, this is an attempt to preserve the status quo and assuage guilt. I have even seen families where the parties have houses next door to each other so that the children can see both parents. As laudible as this is, however, there has to be an extraordinary amount of co-operation between the parties that lasts even when one of them starts having visits from a new partner.
Many of us have separations that fall between these two extremes where, after the initial shock wears off, we struggle between wanting to sever all ties and wanting to hang on to as much as we can of our old bonds. When there are kids, of course, you realise you have no choice but to maintain some contact and bond. Sure, some people do manage to limit the contact the kids have with the parent, but make no mistake, the bond is there and it is not weakened by lack of contact. In my experience, the tie between the child and the parent remains. If a parent teaches a child that they can only be loyal to one parent at a time, then beware when the child decides to reach out to the other parent as they may sever contact with you!
Think of some of your friends who have separated recently. If things were okay between them and their ex just after separation, generally things get worse at some stage (sometimes through frustration at lack of progress, misunderstanding or a third party). Sometimes it deteriorates to the point of needing lawyers and even court intervention, but it generally starts off okay. So what happens? Is it the lawyers causing the problem? No-one forces people to go to lawyers, they go when they feel they must. A good family lawyer is able to help restore the situation to the level of co-operation the parties generally had immediately, pre or post separation.
SEEING THE KIDS
Keeping in Touch
The days of the kids living 12 days at one house and 2 at another are long gone, as are the terms "residence" and "contact". These days the word "Residence" more properly reflects the true situation where children reside (or live) with one parent for so many nights a week or fortnight and with the other parent for the other nights. The obligations of day-to-day parenting are shared too. A child may live 7 days a fortnight with one parent and 7 days a fortnight with the other. This could be made up of different scenarios such as 3 nights one week and 4 nights the next week with Dad and 4 nights the first week and 3 nights the second week with Mum and all the variables in between. Think about that for a minute. You could make an arrangement that gives you each one weekend a fortnight with your children and arrange the other nights to * your family. For instance, if dad coaches the kids in netball they may want to stay over on netball training nights. Easy isn’t it? Well, this arrangement is ok in that some kids can spend time with both parents but this may not suit all kids. You know your children.
If they are happy enough to move from place to place, then this plan will probably suit them, but if you have a child who likes his or her own space, who is happy to get home after holidays and spend time in their room, then this arrangement may be intolerable for such a child. You have to consider your kids needs, after all, it is the child’s right to see the parents, not the parents right to see the children that we are talking about here.
New child laws have come into effect in Australia that focus on shared parenting. It remains to be seen how the Courts will interpret those laws, but the effect will be that the Court must give consideration to shared care of the children and only make different orders if shared parenting is not possible or in the best interests of the children. I don’t think that it will necessarily mean a generation of “suitcase kids” where the kids spend exactly half of their days and nights with each parent. Hopefully though, there will be lots more opportunity for input by both parents, regardless of where the child actually lives.
Separating the children
Sometimes it seems obvious that one child should be with Mum and one with Dad. Think carefully before you enter such an arrangement. It sometimes seems fair for one child each, but, the studies show that kids really rely on their siblings. This is especially so in separating families and to separate them can deprive them of their main support. Courts occasionally make orders to separate children but when they do, they take great care to ensure as much time as possible together eg almost every weekend, all of the school holidays and their birthdays.
Even so, it may be that the kids grow up in households with different rules and different focuses, I think this can weaken the bond between kids. You know your kids, but think carefully about this plan and be sure it suits them before you lock in such an arrangement. Some sample orders will be in the appendix of the eventual hard copy of this book.
Picking up and dropping off
I often think I could write a whole book on this issue alone! You can’t imagine how many dramas have been generated during 2-3 minutes it takes to collect or deliver children. There are several issues that arise and you may come up against some or all of them at some time so forewarned to forearmed. The issues are:-
1) Abuse, violence and intimidation between adults
2) Confusion or conflict over changeover venue
3) Upset/clingy children
4) Upset/clingy parents
5) Late or early arrival by one or the other parent
6) Parent arriving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
7) Unsafe/unregistered motor vehicle and/or incorrect or inappropriate child restraints.
8) The presence of an unwelcome new partner
9) The presence of unwelcome third parties
10) Unexpected collection by someone other than the parent
So there you have my top 10 complaints at contact changeover. I told you there was enough to fill a book! Let’s look at them in detail and I will try to give you the advice I have given over the years to my poor clients.
1. I know you would never “lose it” in front of the kids after you’ve read about the effect it has on them and after all, you are the enlightened one in this separation, aren’t you? But just in case you feel you could possibly be provoked, here are some steps to ensure that you do not put yourself or your kids in that position.
2. Firstly, keep all exchanges with your ex very polite and brief. If he/she wants to discuss a change of plan (something that may get your blood up if you’re already arranged your schedule to suit him/her once and doesn’t he/she realize you can’t just keep changing things to suit their every whim – God, he/she has got a cheek, Whoa there – cool down – well deep breath – suggest calmly that your ex send you an email or give you a note when you drop the kids off or call you after you drop the kids off and you will discuss it then. Then, if you get mad when you get the email, you can cool down before you send your response. Or at least, if you do discuss it on the phone and if you do get angry, it won’t be in front of the children.
Similarly, if you have something to put to your ex that may trigger a reaction (no matter how reasonable your request seems to you) then please, please don’t ask it in front of the kids. Send an email, letter or phone them. It is just simple people skills really. In time, maybe when things have settled down, you will be able to discuss these things casually, but don’t risk it in the early days in front of the kids.
Of course, I know that it sometimes doesn’t need for you to ask a question or say anything to be subject to a hail of abuse at contact changeover. Say nothing at the time, reassure the kids straight after without putting the other parent down. But do write and let your ex know that you will get a DVO on them if they persist in abuse. I have a sample letter in the back of this book marked #. I find such a letter works quite well sometimes to prevent further trouble without you needing to get a DVO which can sometimes cause even more ill will . Although if the letter doesn’t work, then by all means apply for a DVO/AVO.
If you tape record the abuse, then in Queensland, this is legal because as long as one party to a conversation knows it is being taped, then it is okay. So a small recorder in your pocket can help your DVO Application. You need then to type it exactly as it sounds with the name of the speaker before each speech, rather like a play, so it looks like this:-
Judy Swearer: I will knock your block off
Ian Niceness: There is no need to talk like that.
Judy Swearer: You’ll be sorry if you take these bloody kids today.
The law is different in each state regarding taping conversation:
Phone conversation taping is another issue addressed in this book.
Difficulty with changeover for parents often stems from the choice of changeover venue, picking kids up from the home where you once were a family is fraught with difficult emotion for the parent collecting the children. It is also awkward for the person who is still in the home – especially if they have repartnered, or if there are unresolved property or relationship issues.
In the circumstances, people often find it easier to arrange for children to be exchanged in a public place such as a shopping centre, playground, fast food outlet, at a friend or relative’s home or even at a Police Station. Sometimes these options are good if they reduce the risk of violence or abusive exchanges in front of the children. The trouble with this decision, though, is the extra pressure it places on the kids. If they are collected from home and returned home, they can be in their own comfortable environment until collected by their parent and a late arrival or a “no show” has far less impact on them than it would if they were waiting at a shop or fast food outlet. Also, the tension is less as they await the arrival. There is also, I think, a subliminal message that there is something wrong with their parent. Any real risk of unpleasant interchange between the parties can be avoided at home by arranging for the children to move between the house and the car unaccompanied with one parent to stay in the house and the other in the car.
- Please think about this and try for the sake of the children to avoid knee jerk arrangements that, although they may be less awkward for the adults, are much less comfortable for the children. Another compelling argument for normalising contact collection at the parents’ homes as soon as possible, is that contact will continue for a long time especially if your children are small and the impact on the parents daily lives is also less if there are not compulsory travelling to shopping centres every fortnight. Think about it.
How to choose a solicitor-
I can really relate to this question, having employed several solicitors in my practices over the years. What I looked for, I suppose is what you will look for but the difference is that I actually got to interview mine before I hired them. Well, guess what? So can you. I firmly believe that if you are going to have a solicitor on your team as you go through your separation journey, you should try to be reasonably sure that you like him or her and feel you can trust him/her.and that your solicitor has the level of skill in family law that is required to address your matter.
You can find out some things by looking at yellow pages ads especially on line where you can see their web sites, and it always pays to telephone and try to have a quick chat to the lawyer before you commit to making an appointment .
While it is true that many lawyers won’t take your call until you are a client, many others will. We always do. This preliminary chat can give you a pretty good idea of whether you are going to be able to get along with this person. It is important to get on reasonably well with your solicitor because your matter could go on for a year or more. You almost certainly will have some tough times ahead in court or conferences or responding to hurtful or challenging letters from your former partner (or his/her solicitor) and your relationship with your solicitor needs to stand those testing times.
It is often said that Criminal Lawyers deal with quite unpleasant people acting at their best, but that Family Lawyers deal with nice people at their most awkward. I think that is right, but we do understand that our clients are under a lot of pressure.
If you read the papers and many articles on domestic violence today you would be forgiven for thinking it is much more prevalent today than it was in the past. I don’t think it is. I think that what has changed is that we identify it more readily, and we have extended our definitions of it to cover emotional, financial, sexual and verbal abuse as well as the physical abuse that was always recognized as D.V. Years ago society felt D.V was acceptable in marriage. This stemmed from the idea that women “belonged” to their husbands. Only a few decades ago the police would have referred to a complaint about violence in the home as “a domestic matter” and have been very reluctant to attend at the scene. In QLD, before the introduction of the D.V Act in 1989 the police were far less responsive to D.V calls than they are now. Now, some people say that D.V orders are given too easily. Almost everyone reading this would have heard of someone who obtained a Domestic Violence Order, DVO or apprehended Violence order (AVO) on what appeared on its face to be very flimsy grounds. D.V is said often to be the easiest thing to allege and almost impossible to defend oneself against. This is probably because incidents of D.V tend to take place in private where the only people who know about it are the perpetrator and the abused person. So if an allegation is made, the fact the no-one witnessed anything does not mean it didn’t happen.
DVO- Yes or No?
Let me start by saying that some people need a Domestic Violence Order to protect them and their kids from the anger of a partner. By the way don't think for one minute that only men commit Domestic Violence. I have seen some very badly effected men who have suffered at the hands of a woman.
Nevertheless, the taking out of a Domestic Violence Order is not automatically the right thing to do.
Tips for getting through your first days and times with the kids.
How to Cope When the Kids Aren’t With You:
I think the biggest issue for a lot of people when their children are on contact for the first time, even if they feel that the other person is a suitable carer for the children, is what to do suddenly with the time on your hands. If you’re used to living every day with a small child or with young children and suddenly you wake up one Sunday morning and you don’t have to look after the children and, indeed, you may be in the house alone, it can be quite a shock to the system. After time, I am assured by my clients that many of them learn to regard this time as a time to unwind and treat themselves, so that they can be more relaxed and in the end, the children benefit. At the start, however, it can be difficult and I hate the thought that some of my clients are I’m sure, spending hours either in tears or close to tears and moping around the house. I know that a house feels very empty when the children are gone but a few tips to help you through the first few contact visits are set out below. These are tips that people have told me over the years and from my experience as a Step-Mother and a Mother of children who went away to spend time with their father:-
• If you really don’t think you can face it, try to go away for the weekend or at least the best part of the day for the first week or two when the children are away;
• Try not to be alone and if you must be alone, make sure that you have meaningful activities planned;
• Never ever let the kids see that you’re upset about them going and do not be over-demonstrative when they come back;
• I know you wouldn’t do this, but I have seen clients who have told the children of all of the great fun things they’re going to do while the children are away and this just succeeds in upsetting and, to some extent, sabotaging the time they’re spending with the parent;
• It’s important to strike a balance between an appropriate farewell and letting the children know that you love them without laying any guilt burdens on them for leaving you on your own or making them feel like they’re missing out on anything while they’re not there;
• A good strategy is to give them a bit of an outline of what you’re doing while they’re away so that you can see that you are under control and cared for, but be careful to tell them about things that would seem very boring to them at least for the first few times;
• When you are upset about contact, even if you do, do all you’re crying in the shower and you think the children don’t know about it, the kids actually do know about it. Even babies can pick up on tension in a room. Even if they’re not sure what it’s all about, little kids can play up when they know that you are tense or unhappy about something.
So the message here is that, for your children’s sake, keep everything as normal as possible. In time, it should become a very normal thing for the children to move happily between the two households and this, I think, would be the children’s second favourite thing after their obvious first one which would be the reunification of their parents.
This is a good time to take up any old hobbies that you may have discarded when children came onto the scene or when you first started living with your partner. Lots of people rediscover their interest in music, craft, bush-walking, camping or even just reading and having a Sunday morning latté. After all, if you were the only person caring for the children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you would quite quickly become overwhelmed and certainly would have very little time for yourself. It’s not something to feel guilty about if you take some time out to recharge your batteries so that when the children are with you, you can look after them better.
I always try to make sure my parents have weekend time and school time with the children and the amendments to the Family Law Act in July of 2006 emphasise that as well. Otherwise, one parent becomes the “Macca’s” and Playground parent, while the other one is the Go to bed early and Do your homework parent. As the kids grow up, this presents them with quite a skewed view of one parent as more fun than the other parent and can lead to difficulties later on. Not only that, it’s much more fun for a parent to occasionally go to Macca’s and the playground with the child than to always be hounding them for homework.
Just as an ‘aside’, I think homework is somewhat over-rated and can become a bit of a battleground for parents and children. When you’re spending a reduced amount of time with children compared to parents who are still together, it is a dilemma to decide how much of your time to spend enforcing homework requirements.
If there’s little or no co-operation between the parents, it can easily become one person’s bug bear and the other person ignoring the issue and again emphasising the fun parent/business parent syndrome. As a former teacher, I have a fundamental objection to homework as I believe the children need to have time to play and I don’t think a parent’s relationship with a child should be defined in terms of homework. I know that some departments of education heads are looking at the question of homework at the moment, but I would suggest to any of those people who have authority in this area, to give some consideration to how the issue of homework is dealt with when children are sharing time between two households with two parents who may have very different views on homework.
Shared Parenting – What about the kids’ stuff?
Shared parenting requires a certain amount of co-operation between the parents unless you’re really planning on buying your child two recorders, two different sets of school books, uniforms and sports equipment etc. Invariably, a child, dashing from one home to the other particularly if drop-off is before and after school, will leave something at someone’s place. It is vital for the parents to be able to assist each other in making sure the child doesn’t suffer any additional stress as a result of not turning up to school with a recorder possibly being punished for that, or at least for the child feeling left out because of it.
I’m afraid I have seen some dreadful situations where the children can’t even take their clothes from one house to the other and Christmas presents are required to be left at the home of the parent who gave the presents to them. The poor kids, it seems, are given presents in the morning and then some of them have only two hours to play with them before they return to their other parent without the gift. When you have a household where the child doesn’t go back to that home until the next school holidays, or even for a week or two, it is somewhat cruel, I think, to do this to the kids. Sometimes, also in this situation, the parent who is so short-sighted as to impose this regime on their children is also dense enough to give the children big presents or expensive presents that the other parent can not or will not provide in the form of one-upmanship.