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Communicating with your child’s other parent during separation

Communicating in a positive way with your child’s other parent can be hard when you are ending your relationship and going through separation. Communicating with each other positively or even neutrally can make a big difference in reducing conflict and reducing the impact of your separation on your child.  

Here are some tips from parents who have been through it about how to maintain positive communication:  

  • Try not to blame yourself or your child’s other parent for what has happened.   
  • Agree not to let your own feelings cast a shadow over your discussion about what is in the best interests of your child.  
  • Agree some rules together about how to manage your meetings, like hand over for contact.  
  • One of the rules could be, if your conversation goes bad or breaks down, agree to stop and arrange to continue at another time.  
  • Avoid using your child to pass messages between you and their other parent.  
  • Work together to create an online Parenting Plan.

If you cannot agree  

There will be times when you cannot agree (no different to when you were together!). If you find that you cannot come to an agreement about arrangements for your child, or if you are worried about something, you may benefit from the help of a trained mediator. 

This does not have to mean going through the courts.  Mediation can help you to negotiate your decisions and communicate better with your child’s other parent. A trained mediator’s job is to act as an impartial third party, helping you exchange information, ideas, and feelings in a positive way for the benefit of you and your child. 

Most of us feel hurt and angry during separation and find it hard to prevent these feelings from affecting our ability to work together with our child’s other parent to do what is best for them. If you need help, call on a trusted friend (ideally one who will not just ‘take sides’) a health professional or counsellor. Having someone to talk to can offer reassurance and support you through a difficult time in your life.  Grandparents and other relatives can also be a source of support for you and your child. 

Spending time with both parents and their wider family matters to children 

Only a very few children tell us that they do not want to spend time with both their parents and carry on seeing them all as part of their family. Keeping in contact with the other parent who has left the family home reassures a child that, although life will be different, they are not losing one of their parents or that other side of their wider family.  

The trauma of separation and loss for a child is made worse if they also lose touch with the people who are important to them. Keeping in touch with other family members (who may also be able to offer support) can help a child adjust to the changes in their life.    

In exceptional circumstances, when the child does not have a positive bond with their other parent or the other parent has harmed their child (or another child) or poses a risk of harm to their child, the FCA may decide that living with or spending time with that parent is not in the child’s best interests. In the end though, it is for the court to decide whether contact is in the child’s best interests and what sort of contact will safeguard the welfare of the child. The court will take into account the wishes and the feelings of the child but may not always agree with what the child wants.