How to Co-Parent Effectively Following Separation

How to Co-Parent Effectively Following Separation

In this video, Accredited Family Law Specialist, Bruce Provan reveals his top 10 expert tips for successful co-parenting post-separation.



Good morning my name is Bruce Provan, I’m the Managing Director of Page Provan. We are a firm of lawyers in central Brisbane who practise exclusively in family and fertility law. I want to talk to you this morning about how to co-parent effectively following separation, and I’ve got 10 tips to assist you with that.

Now, separation, obviously, is never a nice process, but at least if you can communicate effectively after separation, there’s a good chance that your children will get through the separation without too much damage. The research shows that it’s not the separation that causes problems for children going through it. It’s the conflict between the parents, both before and after the separation that causes the damage.

So here are my tips, first is to try to communicate effectively with the other parents of your children. Now, you don’t have to like each other. In fact, many parents who have been through a separation actively dislike each other. But if you can communicate effectively, that will have a very positive impact for the children. Now, ideally, you would be able to speak to each other regarding the children and make decisions together about what’s in the best interests of the children.

But for a lot of couples, that’s simply not possible. But if you can communicate effectively using some other method, that’s almost as good. So for example, couples communicate through text or emails, or now there’s a number of apps which parents can use to communicate and send documents between each other about the children, and I understand that they’re quite effective. The second tip is to try to comply with any agreement that’s been reached.

Now, that doesn’t have to necessarily be an agreement in writing or a court order. You may have an oral agreement, but if each side sticks to the agreement, there’s less likely to be problems, and at least it engenders some trust between the two of you. Third tip is to try to avoid conflict in the presence of the children. As I mentioned before, that has a harmful effect on children when they see conflict going on between their parents, either verbally or in other ways.

The other thing is try not to denigrate the other parents in the presence of the children. There’s certainly maybe aspects of your former partner that you don’t like, you may not like certain things that they do. But if you denigrate the other parent in the presence of the children, this undermines your relationship with your former partner and has a negative impact upon the children. What will often happen is that the other parent will start denigrating you.

The next tip is to model appropriate behaviour in the presence of the children. The children learn more from modelling they see rather than what they’re being told. So if you model appropriate behaviour, such as effective communication or civilised communication with the other parent, that’s going to have a good impact upon the children. The other thing is to seek assistance where appropriate.

I mentioned earlier the use of apps, but if you find that communication with your former partner is not working effectively or as effectively as you would like it to do, one of the options is to go and talk to a family dispute resolution practitioner or even a counsellor to try to come to an agreement about certain aspects of parenting the children, or simply to try to develop some techniques to deal with the other parents’ behaviour, because most likely, you’re not going to be able to change the other parents’ behaviour.

But if you can work out some techniques to deal with it, that might help you. Next tip is to be generous. Now, as I mentioned before, you may dislike your former partner, but if you’re somewhat generous to them, you’ll probably find that that is reciprocated, and it also creates a good impact upon the children when they see that. Keeping in mind that when your children enter into adult relationships themselves, they will probably use your behaviour as the modelling in that relationship.

As children get older, it’s appropriate that they have some say in the arrangements between parents as to how often and when they see the other parent. Certainly by the time children reach their teens, they often have the maturity to be able to make decisions for themselves about how often they see the other parents, so be guided by that. It’s not appropriate, though, to allow young children to decide arrangements between the parents.

They’re simply too young to be able to make those decisions, and sometimes they’ll simply play parents off against each other. It’s good to allow some flexibility in terms of arrangements for the children. We all appreciate some flexibility, you may have a particular event on, for example, that you wish to go to when the children are due to be spending some time with the other parent.

So flexibility works both ways. But I often say to clients, don’t allow too much flexibility because if there’s too much flexibility, well, then the arrangements that you’ve got in place will simply break down. Next tip is to introduce new partners, both to the children and to the parents of your children in an appropriate way. So for example, simply allowing a new partner to come and stay without properly introducing them to the children is probably inappropriate.

They should be introduced to the children in a slow and appropriate manner. And at some stage, it’s actually probably a good idea, depending on your relationship with your former partner, to be able to introduce them, because a new partner is going to have a significant role in the children’s lives, especially if the children are young.

And finally, whatever you do, think about the message that you’re sending to the children, because that message will impact upon their relationships with their friends, other family members and also future partners. So I hope that assists you in your relationship with your former partner.

I’m Bruce Provan from Page Provan, Family and Fertility Lawyers.

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Family Law Section Law Council of Australia Award
Member of Queensland law society
Family law Practitioners Association
International Academy of Family Lawyers - IAFL
Mediator Standards Board