According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the 2021 Census indicated that the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is 12.2 years. 47.8% of those divorces impact children under the age of 18. When a marriage or long-term relationship ends, many men find navigating parenting arrangements with their ex-partners very challenging, stressful and seemingly unfair.
Coordination of arrangements may be difficult, especially during adjustment to new situations and commitments that might include work, training or study, and new relationships.
Communication is key, and dependent upon the nature of the relationship (and the reasons for its end), maintaining contact in writing (possibly via email, text or social media messaging) may be a less-confronting alternative to speaking over the phone or face-to-face.
Keeping the focus on children’s needs is the goal and sometimes this is easier said than done. If discussions get off-track, remember to monitor and adjust focus towards the children in negotiating parenting arrangements and try to guide your ex-partner in the same direction.
You should aim to be fair and flexible with your time and it is reasonable to expect the same from your ex-partner. This includes both parties being open to assisting each other with schedules that are manageable, and considering travel (pick-ups and drop-offs), school holidays, birthdays and other occasions that fall outside of the usual care arrangements.
Most arrangements will involve payment of child support from one ex-partner to another, with the ex-partner who is responsible for the children for most of the time usually being the recipient. The amounts payable are determined, monitored and reviewed regularly by Child Support (Services Australia) and are largely based on percentage of care and income. Another financial consideration is the cost of schooling, outings, presents or ongoing activities (for example, participation in a sporting team or drama classes). Some of these costs may be straightforward based on parental responsibilities, some may require more negotiation if expenses are to be shared.
As one or both partners develop new relationships, more challenges may present themselves. How will the new partners fit in with the parenting arrangements? What are the ex-partners comfortable or not comfortable with? How do the children feel about the new partners? Keeping communication as open as possible is recommended.
If arrangements cannot be reached between ex-partners, other options are available. The first is a Parenting Plan. There are services that can assist in creating this type of plan, which sets out in plain language the arrangements each parent has agreed to. Parenting Plans are not legally enforceable. By contrast, a Parenting Order may be issued should the parties wish for the Family Court to decide upon parenting arrangements. Once in place, these are legally enforceable.
Circling back to those statistics from the ABS, it’s important to understand that you are not alone. Many couples go through similar situations. There will be some stress and difficulty in moving forward as parents. Adjusting to a new situation takes time; do your utmost to stay calm and reasonable in securing viable arrangements for yourself, your ex-partner and (most importantly) your children.
As always, remember…before it all gets too much…Talk to a Mate®!!
By The Regional Men’s Health Initiative