Resources to help you make arrangements that are in your child’s best interests
The information in this section of our website is intended to help you to meet your child’s needs by taking a co-parenting approach with your child’s other parent or carer. It provides information about ways to reduce conflict, understand the impact of your separation on your child during this difficult time for you as a family, and, together, to make the best decisions for them.
We have a range of resources, advice and guidance to help separated parents.
Below, you will find information on what is meant by a ‘co-parenting’ approach as well as some advice and tips to help you and your child’s other parent or carer to work together to understand and meet their needs through this difficult time for them.
In addition, we have information and advice in this section of our website about the following
- Agreeing a Parenting Plan – you can use our online resource to help you.
- Communicating with your child's other parent during a separation.
- Communicating with your child's other parent after a separation.
- Planning parenting time after separation.
- Coping with your child’s reactions.
- Supporting your child through divorce and separation.
The aids and resources on these pages have been developed by people with experience and expertise in family law proceedings including children, parents and carers, Cafcass, the Ministry of Justice, mediation services, contact centres and other information providers.
We start by considering what is meant by ‘co-parenting’ and by offering some advice to help you and your child’s other parent or carer to work together to do that.
‘Co-parenting’ is a shortened version of the term ‘co-operative parenting’. Parents who have gone through separation and divorce tell us that co-operation is essential to making things work well for their child during and following the painful process of separation.
Everyone understands that if you are in the process of leaving a long-term relationship or divorce when you have had children together, you might feel like you do not have the positive feelings or energy needed for co-operation.
Becoming an effective co-parent for your child is an ongoing process that will last as long as your child needs you. It takes time and practice to feel you are doing it well (or well enough) and there will be times when you may feel you are finding it hard going and getting it wrong.
Parents tell us that it is not so different to the feelings they had when they first became parents. The combination of a new situation and sense of responsibility for getting it right for your child may feel overwhelming. You are not alone if you worry about getting it wrong. It is the lot of being a parent!
We are unlikely to ‘get it right’ every time. We hope you find the following tips of parents who have been there helpful:
- Respect each other’s parenting approach as you did when you were together. Your co-parent may have different approaches to mealtimes, bedtimes and entertainment, but try not to interfere unless you genuinely feel it is harmful to your child.
- Children and young people are okay with different rules in their different homes, so unless the child is at risk of harm, you should try to accept and even value the differences.
- When you speak about your child’s other parent, it is in your child’s best interests to use positive or neutral comments. Try to encourage your family and friends to do the same.
- However tempting it is, do not question your children about the other parent or encourage them to act as spies. If you have questions about what goes on at the other parent’s home, ask the other parent directly.
- Do not encourage children to comment negatively or complain about their other parent. If there is a problem, encourage them to talk to you about it and ask if they would like to speak to their other parent about it.
- Try and keep your feelings about your child’s other parent separate from your parenting decisions. Treat your child’s other parent or carer as you would like to be treated yourself.
- While texting and emailing can be useful, we all know things can be misinterpreted. Think about the best way to communicate with your co-parent or carer.
- Share information about your child with each other. There should not be any competition around who has the most information and it means that your child is receiving the best possible care from both their parents or carers.
- Make sure your child has what they need at each home. Your child should not have to carry the burden of ferrying basic things backwards and forwards between homes unless there are things that are precious to them and they want with them all the time.
- Keep to the agreed financial arrangements and notify the other parent about any issues or difficulties you are having that will affect them.
- Keep each other updated on your contact information. You should each know the other’s address, telephone number, work number, etc.
- Be thoughtful about introducing new relationships to your child, especially if you move in together. It is always better to let their other parent know beforehand, so they do not hear about them from your child.
You may also find the information and resources on the National Family Mediation website helpful.