It goes without saying that the breakdown of a relationship is a significant event.
You may need to think about how you are going to move forward financially, or what arrangements you and your former partner are going to put in place for your children. Navigating a separation can be a difficult task, but there are a number of practical things to consider and steps you can take at the outset of separation to make navigating that initial period a little bit easier.
In a previous article, we offered some practical financial questions to consider immediately upon separation. In this article we will provide you with some things to consider and practical tips regarding your parenting issues at separation.
- Consider reaching out to others for emotional support. For you this might mean support fromfriends or family, or you might prefer to speak with someone who is independent from you and your relationship, such as a counsellor. You may seek a referral from your GP or contact a counselling service directly. You can also determine the focus of your counselling, whether that be on assisting you to co-parent effectively, supporting you as an individual or providing you with greater tools to support your children.
- Establish with your former spouse how you will communicate about your children after separation. Understandably, emotions may be running high at this time, so it might be appropriate to limit direct verbal communication and stick to written communication for the time being. It can assist to set clear boundaries around communication from the outset.
- Shield your children from the adult conflict. Do not speak badly of the other parent to or in front of your children, and do not discuss with them adult issues. It is also very important not to lean on your children for emotional support. Research shows that a child’s exposure to conflict between their caregivers can have long-lasting harmful effects on them.
- Consider if someone will move out of the home and, if so, who. This will necessarily involve a consideration of what care arrangements you will put in place for your children, that is, who your children will remain living with, the time they will spend with the other parent and, if necessary, how to preserve your and your children’s safety.
- If you are leaving the home, consider what you need to take with you. In addition to personal everyday items, you may need to consider what you need by way of furniture, appliances, things for your children and any other items of personal value to you. You should also take with you any important documents, such as your and your children’s passports, birth certificates, health care cards, and things like bank statements and financial records.
- Let your children’s school/s know about your separation. You might notify their teachers, the principal and the school counsellor. Your child’s teachers can play a supportive role during this period of transition, and may be best placed to monitor your child’s adjustment and behaviour outside of the family home.
- Notify Centrelink and the Child Support Agency about your change of circumstances. You may be entitled to a pension or other income support payment while you are a young child’s main carer and/or receive a low income. You might also be entitled to the receipt of, or be liable for the payment of, child support.
- Seek legal advice. If you are struggling to deal with these preliminary issues, or would like to discuss what separation means for you and your family, there is assistance available. By obtaining an initial understanding of the law relating to family disputes, you will have a better understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities and how best to navigate the waters of separation for you and your family.