Are you unsure of how you’ll continue to parent your children after a breakup? You have choices. Only you and your spouse are the experts on what is best for your children. You can craft your own plan (as creatively as you wish) or you can leave the issue of how you will parent your children to a judge, who knows neither you nor your children.
The new Family Law Act states that in making a parenting order or negotiating a parenting agreement, the only consideration will be the best interests of the children.
Courts and lawyers are not moved by parents’ pleas for their “right” to have the children with them a certain amount of the time. What they do consider are the interests of the children, such as schooling, recreational activities, extended family ties, and peers. The parents’ needs are important as well, but are considered around work schedules, availability of child care, and the ability of the parent to look after the child. More and more, children are being asked to tell the court (usually through a neutral third person) what matters to them in a parenting scheme.
If you and your spouse don’t want the court to tell you what your relationship with your children should be like, you will need to create a parenting plan yourselves. As with any planning process, you will need information. Here are some great places to start:
- The Parenting After Separation course. It is held during an evening and it is free. Phone the Kelowna Family Services Society for more information (250.860.3181).
- The Public Health Agency of Canada puts out a book called Because Life Goes On. You can order it by phoning 613.954.5995.
- For more detailed information, read the book Surviving the Breakup, How Children & Parents Cope with Divorce, by Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly.
Counselors can be very helpful when creating a parenting plan. You can go to a counselor either together or separately to discuss what children need and what is age appropriate. Sometimes, your children’s school counselor or your family doctor will be willing to give you input.
Remember, your children didn’t ask for this breakup. They are hurting just like you are. Focus on their needs, not what your spouse did or didn’t do to cause the breakup. Your children need both parents at this difficult time in their lives.
The voice of children is often lost in the conflict and acrimony when families split. Parents and courts often want to hear what the children are feeling after a breakup. At Just Family Solutions, Ron Smith, is experienced in interviewing children and providing “Voice of the Child” reports to the Courts and to the parties. Ron has also has acted as mediator in many disputed parenting cases. Ron welcomes your inquiries at this time. Voice of the Child reports and mediation should take place at the earliest possible date, before the parties are tempted to use the children as part of their negotiation process.