Co-parenting by Separated Parents

One of the most difficult questions in the case of a Separated Parents partner/couple will always remain to be how to collaborate and co-parent their children. Curiously the partners have separated but they still owe a joint task or responsibility to provide the best care and welfare to their children. And it becomes very important for the separated partners to understand the importance of this challenge.

The Australian family law jurisprudence focuses on the fundamental principle of ‘best interest of the child/ren’ in working out the parenting arrangements in any given case. Understanding the different types of parenting orders available under the Family Law Act encapsulate the concept of co-parenting. It may be that the legal terminology as used in the commonwealth is different from the popular terminology often interpreted incorrectly or inappropriately.

The principles of ‘shared parenting responsibility’ as used under the Family Law Act warrant the parents to make joint decisions about the major long-term issues impacting the child. These decisions include the matters of education, cultural and religious upbringing, health, names and living arrangements that would otherwise make it difficult for a child to spend time with the separated parents without any proper hassle and stress.

The residence of the child and the time a child spends with each of the parents provide for the joint shared responsibility of the child’s time on a more equitable basis. These plans are designed to match the expectation of ‘the best interests of the child/ren’ including and not limited to consideration to the child’s developmental needs.

In contrast with the previous understanding in respect of authority over the child in which the child was considered as a piece of a property the lawmakers recognised the need to understand the whole process from the point of view of the child who suffers immensely because of the separated parents.

The convention on the rights of the child warrants several rights to the child including but not limited to 1. Be cared for their best interests being the paramount consideration; 2. Be provided for in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child; 3 be protected against all forms of discrimination; 4 be protected from a harm; 5. Life; 6. Know and be cared for by the parents; 7 maintain personal relations and direct contact with both the parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the best interest of the child; 8 express their views freely in all matters affecting the child when the child is capable of forming their own view.

There is a presumption that both the parents will have an equal parental responsibility and that they will both have a role in making the decisions about the matters affecting the child in the long term and short term. The child’s best interest is to have a regular and continuing contact, care, and interaction with both the parents without there being any bad flavour of the parents’ separation. To focus on these fundamental expectations, the Australian family legal jurisprudence now focuses on the duties and obligations of the parents rather than any form of parental rights. The emphasis is on the duties and obligations of the parents and the child’s rights. The child’s rights include having the benefit of care of both the parents; protection from any harm; proper care and parenting and an expectation upon the parents to discharge their duties and obligations in a proper and genuine manner and to the best of their ability.

The concept of co-parenting exists with every parenting arrangement, regardless of its formal title. In different ways, each parent is involved in raising the child in cooperation, collaboration, communication, compromise, and consistency.  These features grow over time and sometimes consume years of work to evolve effectively. We note that the children in parenting arrangement often experience high anxiety during times including moving from one place to another parent.  This results from the child’s knowledge of the conflict between the parents and sometimes extreme nature of conduct of either or both the parents. One needs to ensure that the child/ren are protected from the conflict between the parents.  Minimum verbal and physical contact between the parents are helpful and is often useful to communicate through letter or an email.

By Gurpal Singh