As special occasions arise throughout the year, many divorced and single parents feel unsettled or unsatisfied with the parenting and visiting arrangements. It isn’t until a family event occurs when many people realise their parenting plan and schedules aren’t suitable structured to accommodate special events like Father’s Day, holidays, birthdays and Christmas. These dates can be a cause of contention and friction between parents.
One in four children see their non-primary parent less than once a year or never, and 51% of children do not have overnight stays with their ‘spend-time-with parent’, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies(1). The vast majority of divorced and separated families find navigating parenting arrangements stressful, frustrating and anxiety provoking.
Rachael Scharrer, a divorcee, single parent and founder of DivorceAnswered.com.au shares her tips for single and divorced parents to manage their expectations and time.
One. Have a ‘Parenting Plan’ in place “Having a Parenting Plan in place can alleviate stress and allows families a formalised structure and routine to adhere to. A Parenting Plan is a written agreement outlining the distribution of time and responsibility for the child(ren) of the union. It is important for the arrangement to be considered from the children’s perspective as well as respecting the needs, ability and schedule of each parent involved. Many factors (daily to long term) are taken into consideration and added to the Plan. The Family Court encourages time for children with each parent. However, a great emphasis is given to the quality of time over the quantity of time and the safety and emotional wellbeing of the child is paramount.
The biggest challenges for people creating a Parenting Plan are that they don’t know where to start, feel uncomfortable creating their own Plan, it is too expensive for them to pay a family lawyer to create the Plan, and they don’t know how to lodge the parenting order or think that they don’t need a Plan as things are going ‘fine.’
Saving money in the divorce process is essential for most families. The most affordable way to create your Parenting Plan is to have it by consent. This means that both parents agree on the Parenting Plan and by lodging it at the court, it becomes an order, meaning it is legally binding. The second way to save costs is by creating the Parenting Plan yourself. Asking a lawyer to create your Parenting Plan can cost between $2,625 to $4,500 and you need to brief them, review the document, make the changes, have it signed by the client and lodge it at the court. Divorce Answered offers a customisable, click-the-clause Parenting Plan form for $149 with unlimited changes and requires little time to fill out.”
Two. Keep your children’s best interests at heart when co-parenting “Co-parenting is a balancing act in making sure that you respect the other parent while also ensuring that you keep your children’s best interests at heart. After your children has spent time with their other parent during the holiday period, have boundaries and do not quiz them on your ex-partner or what activities they did together, as this is their personal bonding time together. However, having said this, if your child talks about what they did with their other parent, then it’s best to be supportive and encouraging. If the child is experiencing any concerns or challenges, the parent should come up with an appropriate strategy such as what they can say or do to make the situation better. This gives the child more control and a feeling of empowerment.”
Three. Make the most of your time when you don’t have the kids during the holiday period “It’s wonderful to spend quality time with your children, but when they are with their other parent, it’s important to take some time during the period they are not with you to reflect and acknowledge your feelings and have a bit of ‘me time.’ Going through a divorce is taxing so time without your children is a good opportunity to re-energise. Take the time to compliment yourself and recognise the loving and caring parent that you are to your kids. It’s all about perspective - your personal self-care is an essential tool that helps you be the best parent you can be. Be sure to take some time out for spontaneous activities, whether it’s catching up with old friends, going on a coastal walk for fresh air or even starting a hobby that you’ve always been meaning to do. It’s also important that during this time you learn to say ‘no’ to things that don’t matter or aren’t worthy of your time and attention.”
Divorce Answered is an online resource which offers people a range of free and affordable products such as e-books, Separation Checklist, customised forms (such as Binding Child Support Agreement and Separation Statement) and articles with practical tips. These items are all unique and can save individuals’ time, money and emotional energy when working alongside a lawyer. The philosophy behind Divorce Answered is to revolutionise how individuals navigate separation and divorce by empowering them with the knowledge and range of options available, whilst being time and cost efficient.