Putting Kids First – Prioritising the Best Interests of Children during Separation

By Peta Preston- Senior Associate at North Brisbane Law

Separation is a very difficult time for all involved. Often there is significant hurt, mistrust and hostility between the separating parties. In circumstances where children are involved emotions are heightened; largely due to future uncertainty about who the children will live with and how the children’s relationship with both parents be maintained.
Unfortunately, all too often children are the innocent victims of parents who have waged war on one another. Sometimes, in the midst of grief, trauma and conflict, even the most devoted parents can lose sight of the impact of separation on their children.
So how do separating parents prioritise children’s best interests in the midst of hurt and turmoil?
Based on our experiences working with separating parents we have outlined below some practical matters to consider (*please note that the below information may not be entirely applicable to your case where there are allegations of abuse, violence or other complex matters of risk).

1. Communicate openly but appropriately and reinforce a child’s sense of security

During separation it is very common for children to assume responsibility for the separation and for the hostility between the parents.Communicating openly with children so as to reinforce that the separation is not their fault is crucial.
Letting a child know they are loved by both parents can assist to build a child’s sense of security and counteract feelings of abandonment.
In communicating with children about separation it is very important to be mindful that all communications should be age appropriate and should not expose the children to adult matters or communications which stem from the conflict between the parents.
If you are uncertain as to how to communicate with your children about separation, we suggest accessing support from a parenting support service. Equipping yourself with the skills and resources to support your child/ren post separation is a great strategy.

2. Let go of a sense of rights and entitlements
It is important to be aware that the Family Law Act does not bestow particular rights on separated parents. Despite what many people may think, parents do not have a ‘right’ to a particular parenting arrangement. In parenting disputes the Court must regard the best interest of a child as the paramount consideration.
When parents become fixated on getting a particular outcome or are attached to their perceived rights, the process inevitably becomes more stressful and disheartening for those involved.
In our experience, separated parents are able to resolve a parenting disputes more effectively in circumstances where the parents can put their own needs and wants aside and prioritise the child’s needs and interests.
3. Promote the other parent’s strengths
Whilst it may seem like a very difficult task to accomplish post separation, promoting your former spouse’s strengths is an incredibly beneficial co-parenting tool.
Undermining your former spouse through critical and negative remarks only aids to increase hostility between the parents; making post separation parenting very difficult. Further, if children are exposed to negative communications about the other parent this can be incredibly detrimental to their emotional well-being.
Adopting a positive, strength based approach in your communications with and about your former spouse is a key strategy to moving forward and co-parenting effectively in the future.
4. Support your own emotional wellbeing
Separation is a very stressful time. The grief experienced by post separating parents is not to be taken lightly. Parents should give themselves the opportunity to grieve and be supported in the grieving process.
In addressing their own emotional needs, parents are then better equipped to support their children through the separation.

At North Brisbane Law we apply a child focused approach to all of our parenting matters.
In doing so, we encourage parents to adopt an amicable, solution focused approach that prioritises the best interests of their children.
If you require advice or representation in relation to a family law issue please feel free to contact North Brisbane Law and speak with one our experienced Solicitors.

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