Separation is the First Step. A Parenting Plan Should be the Next.
When both parties are going through the process of separation, it can take a significant toll on the children within the marriage. With emotions running high, both parties need to continue to have a common goal of placing their child/ren’s interests first. A great way to show this commitment is through a parenting plan. The parenting plan is a document that you and your partner agree to outline the future arrangements of your child/ren after separation.
In a recent study, over 80 per cent of children aged 5-17 had experienced at least one trauma symptom (i.e. trouble sleeping, acted unusually young or old for their age) during the early phase of COVID-19. Another study found three-quarters of a million children are likely to experience stress in the family as a result of COVID-19. Understanding how to create a compelling and resilient parenting plan will ensure the child’s interests are always placed first and despite the challenges, many families are facing today with COVID-19, it will continue to remain in place.
1. Understand your Child’s best interest.
Every family is different when a couple decides to go through separation as children are often at different stages of their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on children’s social, school and home environment. Understanding the physical needs of your child (i.e. food, clothing, medical care) is essential to ensure there is minimal disruption to their lives. Recognising your child/ren’s emotional needs (i.e. maintaining relationships, dealing with stress) is critical to establishing and maintaining trust through the process of separation. Take time to consider the needs of your child and tailor a parenting plan that puts their interest first.
2. Work towards a parenting schedule that suits both parties
Many changes occur after parties go through the process of separation. The family dynamic has shifted, and it may take some time to get used to the new arrangements. Both parties should organise a parenting schedule that works for everyone. This allows both parties to ensure they can provide the time and care needed towards any children they have together. A parenting schedule also allows both parties to focus on their health as both parties seek stability during these often-unpredictable times. Many family courts recommend that parents split their time 50/50 with their children as this creates a healthy balance for the child and mimics the home environment before separation.
Have open communication
Many families should seek to keep communication open and freely between one another. Often planning how to communicate and when communication occurs creates further stability for all parties. Parents should plan for unexpected emergencies  ‘Sarah Whittle, Kate Bray’, To safeguard children’s mental health during COVID-19, parents must look after their own <https://theconversation.com/to-safeguard-childrens-mental-health-during-covid-19-parents-must-look-after-their-own-143897>.
 ‘Kate Noble, Peter Hurley, Sergio Macklin’ Number of Australia’s vulnerable children is set to double as COVID-19 takes its toll <https://theconversation.com/number-of-australias-vulnerable-children-is-set-to-double-as-covid-19-takes-its-toll-140057>.
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