Top Legal Considerations for Separated Parents in Australia

Legal Considerations for Separated Parents

Separation can be a tricky period in a relationship that is difficult to navigate. Unless you know that you are planning to get divorced as an end goal, separation can mean a lot of different things for you, your ex-partner and your children from a short period to solve problems, to a complete break without a formal divorce, to a range of other things. But regardless of what separation means to you, there are a number of legal considerations that separated parents in Australia need to consider, which we will go over in this article.

It’s all About the Kids

First, before we get into some of the legal considerations, parents need to understand that all of these considerations need to come from the side of the kids. That means that kids have to be at the forefront of consideration for decisions and their well-being is important. So any decision, if it goes to the court, will have the kids’ best interests in mind when they make the decision. If you are making the decision privately or with a mediator, keep the children’s best interest in mind for all of them.

Meaningful Relationships are a Right

In Australia, children have a right to a meaningful relationship with their parents, unless there is a concern for safety. What “meaningful relationship” means is a relationship where the child has continued involvement that resembles the close connection they had prior to the split. This should be with both parents but it can also be with other caregivers. For instance, if one set of grandparents always babysit the kids while the parents are at work, this should be continued, even after a split.

Now that we’ve looked at those two points in regard to the kids, let’s look at other legal considerations that parents who are separating in Australia need to consider.

Equality in Parenting Responsibility

In Australia, parents who are separating need to consider that, legally, they both have the same level of parenting responsibility. In addition, this parenting responsibility comes with the same level of power, duty and authority over the children. That means that both need to have input into long term, or life changing, decisions being made for the children, regardless of whether you were married or are separating from a long term relationship.

One interesting point to make is that for decisions that are less life changing, such as moving out of the country, can be made independently. However, to help with the co-parenting relationship, Australian parents should set up communication to make decisions together.

Another point to make is that the courts can decide to remove parenting responsibility if it is in the best interests of the child.

Equal Responsibility Does Not Mean Equal Parenting Time

While parents may have equal responsibility, and everything that comes with that responsibility, unless determined by a judge, they do not have that equality when it comes to parenting time. In fact, unless parents agree without a judge, 50:50 time with the children is not always standard. This is very important to stress because, at one time, this was standard law in Australia; however, that is no longer the case.

Instead, courts are looking at the best interests of the child. If a 50:50 arrangement is not in the best interests of each individual child, then it will not be part of the court arrangement. Instead, a careful look will be taken in regard to the child’s needs, where they will have the best living arrangement and how the meaningful relationship can be nurtured regarding visitation time.

This can be quite overwhelming and parents can often disagree with what this looks like. There are a number of free guides that help you navigate a parenting order, which is one determined by the courts. However, it is always the best option for parents to make a visitation agreement together, being sure to have the children’s best interests, along with opportunity to nurture that meaningful relationship, at heart when you make your parenting agreement.

There is a Financial Duty to the Children

This was touched on already but Australian parents have a financial duty to support their children after the separation. This means that regardless of who the children live with, both parents have to financially support them. This can be done in a number of ways such as agreements between parents on shared expenses. Or there can be court ordered child support payments for the kids.

One thing that parents should understand is that in Australia, the Department of Human Services administers child support payments. They also have a number of resources to understand how much support should be given, and how parents can navigate the financial obligations that they have for their children.

Family Law is Gender Neutral

A final point that should be made about the legal system in Australia, when it comes to family law, is that it is gender neutral. This was determined in the Family Law Act 1975. With this law, there are no assumption in regard to gender of the parents or gender roles. What this means for parents who are separating is that traditional roles of parenting are not taken into consideration and the courts will look at relationships and the best interests of the children when determining the parent who will provide the primary care and residence.

This gender neutrality of the law enables dads to have as much say as moms and it enables either parent to hold the responsibility of primary caregiver. In the end, the courts all agree that the child thriving in a healthy and happy way is more important than traditional gender roles within parenting.

Understanding some of these legal considerations when you are separating assists in making sure that the separation is easier for both you and your children.  We know that separation can have a lot of negative impacts on children, especially when it is not an amicable separation but knowing the legal considerations can make the transition much easier for all of you.

Dealing with Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Context of Divorce and Child Custody Cases

Divorce and Child Custody Cases

If children are involved in a divorce proceeding and substance abuse is a factor, one spouse may have worries about the other parent’s ability to maintain a secure home for the children. It is not difficult for a parent to exaggerate or make up false claims of drug or alcohol use, which can be challenging to defend. It is essential to have a solid understanding of the implications that substance abuse can have on a child custody battle.

When deciding who gets custody of the children in a divorce, the courts consider several factors. The emotional bonds that each child has with their respective parents will be taken into consideration by the court. In addition, they will investigate the parents’ mental and physical health, as well as their moral character. If the children are at an age when they can express their opinions, the court may do so as well. In the context of determining custody of a kid, substance misuse is a matter of the utmost importance. This article dives deeper into the topic at hand and offers solutions to its challenges in the context of divorce proceedings.

Substance Abuse and Addiction as a Determinant in Child Custody

The management of substance abuse and addiction issues is complex for different reasons. A child is invariably put at risk when a parent who is responsible for child care is addicted to a substance, be it alcohol,  drugs, or any other thing. Not only can a parent’s history of substance misuse weigh into initial choices regarding child custody. A parent’s excessive substance usage may also play a role in subsequent decisions regarding child custody, even after the divorce or custody orders have been issued. 

If a parent with sole or shared custody begins showing concerning signs of substance abuse that could put the child in danger, the other parent has the right to petition the court for a change in the child’s living arrangement. They may do so even if they only have visitation rights. As a co-parent in this situation, you will need proof to support your suspicions if you believe that your co-parent’s use of alcohol or drugs has dramatically altered or if you have just recently found substance usage that was previously hidden. Additionally, you will need evidence to demonstrate that your child may be at risk due to your co-parent’s substance abuse. 

If this evidence persuades the court that a modification is necessary, the judge may alter the living situation of the kid. They can reduce the amount of time the parent misusing substances spends with the children or impose restrictions on visitation rights. If a parent’s substance abuse problem is severe enough to impede their ability to make responsible decisions, that parent risks losing either exclusive or shared legal custody of their children.

Substance abuse can also lead to maltreatment or neglect of children. If a juvenile court decides to remove a child from a parent’s care as part of a dependency proceeding, that parent will typically be given a certain amount of time to seek treatment and take other steps. This is to persuade the judge that it is safe to return the child to that parent’s care. However, if the judge decides that those attempts at reunification have been unsuccessful, the parent faces the possibility of not only losing custody of the child but also losing all of their parental rights to the child.

How Parents Can Address the Issue of Substance Abuse and Addiction

If the parties involved in a custody dispute cannot agree, they always have the option of going to trial and having the judge decide for them. If, as a co-parent, you have any concerns about the drinking or drug use of your co-parent, you may include provisions in your settlement agreement to address those concerns. Most households have at least one parent capable of reaching a parenting agreement on their own or with the assistance of a custody mediator. However, if you are worried about the well-being of your child as a result of your co-parent’s drinking or drug use, you should talk to a lawyer about your situation. 

These disagreements can be complex on both an emotional and a legal level. An experienced child custody attorney can explain how the law in your state applies to your situation. They can help you acquire the kind of evidence you will need to safeguard your children and your parental rights. This type of attorney can also assist you in understanding how the law in your state applies to your circumstance. By doing so, you and your co-parent become aware of what is applicable and what is not when it comes to child care.

For example, you may include an agreement that requires both parents to abstain from alcohol or recreational drugs for some time before and during parenting time. It is usual for the judge to approve your agreement to include it in an official court order. After then, you have the right to return to court to have the order enforced if the other parent breaks any of the terms of the agreement.


Children whose parents are into substance abuse or addiction are at a greater risk of abuse or neglect. Substance abuse and addiction can both impair a parent’s capacity to fulfill their job as a parent. It can make it more difficult for them to control their impulses, making them more likely to engage in abusive behavior. It is possible for the children living in these homes to suffer from a wide range of mental, emotional, and physical health issues. As a result, the decision of who will have custody of the children in a divorce case involving substance misuse or addiction is given serious consideration. Children who are going through the process of transitioning following their parents’ divorce must be raised in a secure atmosphere free from substance addiction.

Navigating the UK Family Court System for Co-Parenting Disputes

Co-Parenting Disputes

In a perfect world, co-parenting, once through the more emotional and stressful moments of separation, would be free of disputes. Unfortunately, even with co-parenting relationships that are good, the occasional dispute can happen. And sometimes, those disputes are not able to be corrected without the help of the courts. 

In these instances, understanding how to navigate the UK family court system is important so that co-parenting disputes are worked through quickly and with limited effects on your children. For this reason, while we hope that 2houses would avoid these situations, we are here to give you some important understandings on navigating the UK family court system for any co-parenting disputes that can’t be mediated out of court.

Where Can Disputes Occur?

When you are dealing with co-parenting, there can be a number of disputes. Often, this occurs because of financials, or it could simply be around visitation or one parent moving. If you are the primary caregiver, you may feel that you have the right to make decisions without the input of your ex-partner; however, it should be noted that both parents have to make big decisions together.

And it is these big decisions that often create the higher risk of disputes needing the courts to make the final decision. So what are some disputes that occur_decisions both parents need to make?

  • Large moves: If you are staying in the same city or neighbourhood, then moves are often expected and do not need joint agreement; however, if you are moving the child out of the city, county or country, then both parents have to agree to it.
  • Changing Schools: As parents, you often decide on the education plan of your children from a young age. Once separated, that decision is still made by both parents and neither parent can change or select a school without the input and agreement of the other parent.
  • Authorized Absences: It may not seem like an issue, but any absence from school that is authorised must be authorised by both parents. The school is legally obligated to have both parents sign off on an absence. Often, these don’t land in the family court system, unless there is a high number of absences only authorized by one parent.
  • Living and Contact Arrangements: Once the co-parenting agreement is confirmed, this isn’t a dispute very often; however, occasionally, changes in school holidays can lead to disputes over these arrangements and further arbitration is necessary to overcome these disputes.
  • Changing a Child’s Surname: This has to be agreed upon by both parents. At no time can only one person change the surname of the child.

There are many other reasons that you can end up in the UK family court system, but these are often some of the more frequent reasons. So now let’s look how to navigate through them. 

Understanding the Power of the Court

Before you head to filing an application to the court, you should decide on whether or not your case warrants court action, or can even be heard by the court. If it is something that is particularly minor, you and your ex-partner should look at mediation instead of going through the court. Even larger disputes can be done through mediation and are usually faster and less expensive than a court case is. For more tips on mediation in the UK, read our article on mediation. 

In the event that you cannot go through mediation to work through this dispute, make sure you understand what you are filing. A family lawyer can help you with this, but for a quick understanding, the family court can rule on the following:

  • Child Arrangement Orders: Also known as CAO, this is the order of who the child resides with and what the visitation arrangement (also known as contact arrangement) is part of this order.
  • Specific Issue Orders: This order, also known as an SIO, is used to give decision making permission to one parent so they can make medical decisions without joint permission or can make the decision to take the child out of the country.
  • Prohibited Steps Order: A PSO is an order that is set if there are reasons why a parent should not have the ability to take action in regard to their relationship with their child. This has been seen in cases where one parent is worried another parent will leave the country with the child.

When a court makes these orders, they do so with the child’s best interests in mind. 

Filing an Arrangement With the Court

If you have reached the stage where mediation is not working, you can file an application to the family court to have a judge make the decision. When filing an arrangement, there are a few considerations that you should follow.

Consideration One: Use the Proper Form

Most applications for the UK family court is done on the C100 form. This can be downloaded from the website. However, you can file right online now, or you can submit a paper form. It is important to note that Scotland and Northern Ireland has different steps to file an application so contact a lawyer to do so if you reside in those areas.

One thing to point out is that if there are allegations of domestic violence in your ex-relationship, you will need to file an additional form, which is the C1A form. 

Consideration Two: The Fees

Before you get ready to file, be ready to pay the fees. While the fees can change slightly, as of 2023, the fees to file a C100 form is £232.

Consideration Three: Notifying the Other Parent

Most orders will require a notification to the other parent that you are pursuing this dispute in the UK family court system. However, there are times when you can ask that the other parent is not notified. These are known as “without notice” applications and are usually limited to urgent cases with specific steps order or a prohibited steps order. They are only granted in exceptional circumstances but the other parent will need to be notified once an order is in place. 

In that instance, the order will only be enforced for a limited time until both cases are heard in full and then a final, more permanent order will be set. 

Consideration Number Four: Understand the Stages

Once you have filed your application, there are three, potentially four, stages that you will go through. These are:

  1. FHDRA: The first hearing dispute resolution appointment, which is usually a very short hearing where the judge organizes the case.
  2. DRA: The dispute resolution appointment is the preparation for the case where they hear key issues, the extent the issues can be resolved, filing statements of facts, witness arguments, and ensuring that everything complies with the practice direction 27A.
  3. FFH: A fact finding hearing does not always happen but is often done during cases with domestic violence. Fact finding hearings considers the evidence around any allegations and the judge will decide if the allegations occurred or not. 
  4. FH: The final hearing is where the judge will assess all of the evidence and make a final decision. Not all hearings will end with an order but most will.  

During the entire process, you and your ex-partner will be encouraged to settle the dispute on your own prior to the final hearing. 

Navigating the UK family court system can seem daunting but when you understand the process and understand what you can ask for in regard to court orders, you will find it much easier to navigate. Hopefully, you won’t have to go to the final hearing, but if you do, understanding the process will ensure you are more confident walking into court. 

Understanding Your Rights: Canadian Parents, the Law and Divorce or Separation

Legal consideration for canadian separated parents

O’Canada, where do we begin when it comes to Canadian parents, the law and divorce or separation.

First, it’s going to be okay. While it may seem like there are a million different things to consider and understand when you are separating with your partner and taking the steps to divorce, it is not as overwhelming as it originally is.

Second, Canada has a lot of protections for all parents during a divorce and when we are looking at same sex couples, more than two parents and so many other unique ways families are formed, Canada has made the effort to recognize all of those diverse family styles, which allows for Canadian parents to understand their own rights.

Third, we are here to help you understand your rights when it comes to Canadian law, which should take out both the guesswork as well as any confusion that you may have. So let’s dive in and look at those rights that you have as Canadian parents.

Canada’s a Huge Country; Does that Mean the Laws are all the Same?

The answer is a bit harder to answer. While there are many overlapping laws that are applied by federal court rulings, it is important to note that many provinces have their own laws and rules that you should be aware of for your individual place of residence. As this is a much more in-depth look, for the sake of this article, we will focus on more of the broad rights that affect all Canadian parents.

However, before we do, it should be noted that all provinces, as well as all territories, have child support guidelines as drawn out by the federal government with the exception of one—Alberta. That being said, there are some guidelines that are province based so how child support is calculated will depend on amendments provinces and territories have made to the child support guideline or if they are relying heavily on a province drafted guideline.

The New Divorce Act in Canada

On March 1, 2021, the divorce act was changed to reflect new shifts in language. This includes remove the terms custody and access and switching to parenting arrangements to remove the indication of ownership of children with the old terms. Not all provinces and territories have adopted the terminology for parenting arrangements but Canadian parents should expect this to happen Canada wide eventually.

Who is a Parent?

Under Canadian law, a parent is the mother and any other parents who are listed on the birth certificate or adoption papers. In Canada, with the exception of Alberta that still has it set at two, up to four individuals can be listed on a birth certificate; however, five or more can be added to a child’s birth certificate with a court order. These birth certificates are to reflect the ever changing dynamics of Canadian families to include same sex couples, donor parents who are involved with raising the child but may not be living with the child, or surrogate parents, etc.

It should be noted that in the case of three or more parents, there are usually parental agreements where donors and surrogates sign off on parental responsibility but are still on the birth certificate. In these events, they would not be part of the parenting arrangements as per their original contract and agreement.

The multi-parent birth certificates allow for same sex partners, and those using surrogates, to be included on the birth certificate whether they have a biological tie to the child or not.

In addition to biological parents, stepparents can apply for parenting arrangements in the event of separation or divorce. They can also be responsible for child support depending on the length of time they were in the child’s life and other conditions.

What is a Parenting Arrangement?

A parenting arrangement is a plan that you make with your partner, whether through mediation, on your own or with the court, in regard to the care of your children. With parenting arrangements, the same laws apply regardless of whether or not you and your ex partner were married or unmarried at any time in your relationship. That means that unmarried Canadian parents have the same rights as those who were married.

With the parenting arrangement, parents will agree on where the children will live, what the shared visitation will look like and who will be the primary caregiver. In addition to living and visitation arrangements, where the kids go to school will also be decided in the parenting arrangement.

Finally, both parents will agree on important decisions for the children such as education, medical care and religion. In parenting arrangements, if any of these things were to change, both parents need to reach an agreement on it that is reflective of the best interests of the child.

What are the Best Interests of the Child?

Although this article is looking at the rights of Canadian parents, one of the main takeaways is that the rights of the parents are secondary to the best interests of the child. For example, if a judge deems that contact with a parent would not be in the best interest of the child, that parent will not have contact.

With best interests, the following parameters are considered by the courts:

  1. The child’s physical, psychological and emotional well-being is the primary concern of all courts.
  2. The child’s safety and security are additional primary concerns.
  3. There should be consideration and access for healthy relationships with each parent as well as siblings and extended family members such as grandparents as long as the primary concerns are met and contact will have benefits for the child’s well-being.
  4. All arrangements should lead to stability for the child’s needs in regard to their age and development.
  5. Care arrangements should be reflective of both current separation and any future shifts due to divorce.
  6. In any parenting arrangement, culture, spiritual upbringing, heritage, and religion should be respected and included in the arrangement. This is especially important in families with mixed heritage and cultures.
  7. Indigenous rights need to be a primary concern.

Basically, the child’s culture, heritage, age and development need to be considered so the child does not suffer any negative loses of those things during separation and divorce.

As parenting arrangements are for a healthy transition from one to two homes for the children, some rights of the parents may not be considered during this time. In the end, Canadian parents need to be aware of the laws for their individual province and should come to the parenting arrangement with the best interests of the child. If they do both of those things, they should not have too many obstacles when sorting out the best arrangements for your children, yourself and one that works for your ex partner as well

Co-parenting Arrangement Without Going Through the Courts?

Co-parenting arrangement

It’s not always easy figuring out how a co-parenting arrangement might work. The good news is that establishing a co-parenting arrangement doesn’t always require going through the courts. An amicable, voluntary agreement can help save time and money for parents who want joint custody of their children.

Here, we’ll discuss various ways to make co-parenting agreements without going through the courts. We’ll also answer some common questions about co-parenting.

To learn more about co-parenting arrangements without going through the courts, keep reading.

Getting Started With Negotiating

You may want a better way to reach a custody agreement. It might surprise you to learn that the best custody agreements have been drafted outside of a courtroom.

These kinds of arrangements involve mutual agreements between two parties. Sometimes, a neutral third-party may help.

In this way, former couples can create a reasonable custody agreement in an open and mature manner. These kinds of agreements are usually acceptable to the courts.

Making a Co-Parenting Arrangement

You may have an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse or partner. If so, you might find that it’s possible to create a written agreement regarding the care of your child. For instance, one parent may have partial custody, and the other would have visitation rights.

Still, the two of you will need to make decisions. For instance, you’ll need to figure out where your child will spend their birthday. You’ll also need to figure out where your child will spend special holidays and other important family events.

There are three ways that you might go about this task. These methods include.

• Alternative dispute resolution
• Mediation
• Collaborative law

Let’s have a closer look at these practices.

Getting Help With Negotiations

Even though the two of you are agreeing to agree, you may still need to conduct an informal negotiation. Negotiation would involve you, your former spouse, and possibly another party.

This kind of negotiation is called alternative dispute resolution (ARD). It’s a relatively new concept.

ARD is used for a variety of processes. It enables parties to settle disputes out of court and bypass lengthy trials.

A Better Way to Resolve Conflicts

The ADR process is less adversarial. It also takes place in a setting that’s more casual than a court. Still, there are other benefits to alternative dispute resolution.

For example, there’s a lesser degree of conflict between parties during ADR. Also, couples that participate in ADR seem more willing to work together to resolve issues. Furthermore, ADR proceedings don’t become a part of the public record.

Navigating Custody

Some separating couples also resolve conflicts using an informal settlement negotiation process. This process is called mediation.

Again, the emphasis here is on non-adversarial conflict resolution. In this process, a mediator will meet with you and your former spouse. The mediator will help you to settle any disputes.

The mediation process can help you and your former spouse to avoid hostile, stress-filled litigation. It will also spare you and your child from the trauma of a custody dispute.

What to Expect

A mediator will not impose a solution for a dispute. Instead, they will aid you as parents. The mediator will help the two of you come to an agreement.

Some states do ask mediators to make recommendations. However, they only usually do so when the parties involved in mediation cannot reach an agreement.

Also, some states encourage mediation over child custody litigation. In these states, legislators view mediation as a better method for establishing child custody and visitation compared to litigation.

The Benefits of Mediation

Mediation offers several benefits. Firstly, it doesn’t require the expense of hiring a lawyer. There’s also no need for the courts to call expert witnesses during mediation.

Couples usually resolve mediation matters after five to ten hours of negotiation. These negotiations may take place over a period of one to two weeks.

Mediation, rather than litigation, enhances communication between parents. In other words, it’s more likely that divorced parents who’ve taken part in mediation will continue to cooperate. This outcome is very beneficial for raising emotionally healthy children.

The Mediation Process

There are several steps involved in the mediation process. First, you’ll need to meet with the mediator for the first time.

During the initial meeting, the mediator will identify and categorize any issues. After identifying any issues, the mediator can help you and your ex-partner discuss solutions.

During the discussion, your mediator will encourage both of you to maintain a give and take attitude. Once you’ve come to an agreement, the mediator will help to prepare your custody agreement.

The amount of time that it takes you to complete mediation will vary depending on a few things. For instance, mediation will take longer or shorter depending on the number of custody issues that arise.

The length of the mediation will also vary based on the complexity of your issues. Finally, your commitment to a successful agreement will also affect how long the full mediation process takes.

A New Kind of Family Law

Another kind of negotiation falls under a relatively new and emerging legal process. The process is called collaborative law. In many cases, parents find that collaborative law is very useful.

Collaborative law practices help to reduce legal costs. They also help to reduce animosity between involved parties.

These kinds of benefits are important when trying to achieve a child custody agreement. During a collaborative law process, the primary focus is an absolute commitment to coming to an agreement.

Understanding Collaborative Family Law

During a collaborative law process, two lawyers negotiate in a room alongside the parents. The lawyers work together to help guide parents in the same direction. The goal here is to resolve any issues and disputes.

Collaborative law is different from alternative dispute resolution and mediation. With this process, there’s no neutral third-party involved in the process.

Accordingly, you may have decisions to make as the collaborative law process moves forward. For instance, you may choose to hire a lawyer or an expert to help with accounting issues. You might also need to hire other professionals to help with asset valuation or any other important issues that may arise.

Settling on an Agreement

If you’re entertaining entering a parenting agreement, you’re most likely separating from a former partner or spouse. If a child is involved in the separation, it’s important that you create a parenting agreement.

Challenging times may have led to the separation. Nevertheless, you must focus on putting the needs of your child first.

In other words, you’ll need to do everything that you can to come to a mutual agreement about custody and visitation issues. Coming to an agreement is a much better alternative compared to leaving it to a judge to decide what’s best for your family.

Why Make a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement. It will help set a precedent for a successful post-separation relationship.

The making of your parenting plan is an opportunity for you and your ex-partner to talk about important issues. It will help the two of you examine things that may come up during your child’s lifetime.

For example, a parenting agreement might include the terms of the parenting schedule. It might also highlight each parent’s shared expenses and responsibilities for raising the child.

Finding a Parenting Plan that Works

There’s no pre-made parenting plan that will work for every family. What works for one family may not work for another.

Some parents will prefer a split custody parenting plan. This kind of plan provides for frequent and continuous contact with each parent about 50% of the time.

Other parents may prefer a plan where one parent has limited contact. For example, a separating couple may prefer an arrangement where one parent has the child every other weekend plus a midweek.

Alternatively, the parenting plan could make provisions for an occasional overnight visit. These kinds of points are something that only you and your former partner can decide.

Managing Parenting Plan Changes

A question often comes up after parents create a parenting plan. The parents have done the challenging work of working together to create a parenting agreement.

However, eventually, they realize that things could change over time. Now, they’re left wondering what they’ll do when the terms of the current parenting agreement are no longer ideal.

It’s possible to make changes to a parenting agreement. After finalizing a parenting agreement, most couples don’t want to revisit the experience of returning to court, and this is understandable.

However, there’s something that you need to understand in this regard. It’s possible that a dispute could arise in the future.

If this happens, the courts will decide based on the last legal parenting agreement, no matter how long the two of you have used a verbally agreed-on plan.

Parenting Plan Points to Consider

As you develop your parenting plan, you and your ex will need to consider a few important things. Of course, you’ll need to consider your custody agreement. Here, you’ll need to come up with a plan that works for both you and your child.

Separating parents make many different kinds of custody arrangements. For example, separated parents could continue to live near each other. In this case, a shared parenting schedule with equal time with their child may work well.

What’s important here is to come up with a plan where everyone agrees. Your custody plan must be palatable for everyone involved.

With this in mind, you’ll also want to get input from your child. If they’re of a suitable age, their feelings about the situation should weigh in your decision.

Choosing Living Arrangements

Often, children prefer a flexible living arrangement. In other words, they want the ability to transition between households as desired. When parents separate, kids often want to go from household to household on their schedule, not that of their parents.

Here, it’s important to remember that kids want to know their parents care about them. They also want to know that both parents will continue to be a part of their everyday life. It’s vital to provide this benefit for your children with few interruptions and stresses.


In some instances, you may find that you’re geographically separated after a divorce or separation. In that case, you may need to choose a primary residence for your child during the week and school year. They’ll then usually visit with the other parent on weekends, holidays, and summer.

In this scenario, your parenting plan should include where and when you’ll exchange your child. It should also include how the two of you will make decisions about where your child will stay during an emergency.

Your parenting plan might also address the visitation percentage of the non-custodial parent. For instance, couples usually agree that the non-custodial parent will have about 20% of the total parenting time.


You’ll also need to come to an agreement about your child’s education. It can prove very disruptive for a child to change schools mid-year. With this in mind, you’ll want to achieve continuity and stability for your child.

For example, you might agree not to change school arrangements until the end of the school year. You’ll also need to work out how you’ll both contribute to school expenses.

Again, this kind of problem might arise for parents who live in geographically separate areas. You may find that your child wants to change the living arrangement and move with the other parent.

In that case, they’ll also need to attend a new school. You’ll need to consider this as you draft your parenting arrangement.

Also, don’t overlook the time your child needs to study and do their homework. In addition, both parents should be prepared to help with assignments when needed.

Finalizing a Parenting Plan

The courts must approve your final parenting plan. Until the courts approve the plan, it has no legal standing.

This part of the process begins with a judge reviewing your parenting plan. The primary concern of the judge is that your plan meets the best interests of your child.

In this regard, the Family Court must accept your parenting plan. If they do, the parenting plan becomes a court order. In other words, you must legally abide by all terms of the parenting plan.

A Tool That Makes Co-parenting Easier

Hopefully, our brief overview has helped you see the benefits of a co-parenting arrangement. Coming to an agreement is just the first step in successfully raising a child after separation.

You’ll also need to keep track of many things as you raise your child. 2Houses can help.

2Houses can help you with co-parent scheduling, communication, financial tracking, and more. Give our 14-day free trial a try to learn how.

Women’s Rights in a Divorce

Women’s Rights in a Divorce

Going through a divorce without a proper strategy is pure gambling – no favorable outcome exists without substantial preparation. Women have to be prepared to protect their rights if they want to avoid unfair property and child custody settlements and months in court trials. But what are the rights of a woman in a divorce? To answer this burning question, we looked at essential aspects of divorce that deserve the most serious consideration.

A wife’s entitlements for alimony

Spousal support (in different states, it’s also called maintenance or alimony) is money that a spouse with more financial resources pays the other during or after divorce. In the old days, pre-1980s, husbands were the primary breadwinners in a family, while their wives were in charge of the household and children. Naturally, women had neither time nor incentives to work and were entirely financially dependent on men.

The fear of being left without financial support was one reason why the divorce rate was relatively low. Back in 1970, there were 3.5 divorces per 1,000 American citizens, according to a report. For comparison, in 1980 this figure rose sharply to 5.2. 

What happened was that women started gaining their financial independence by entering the labor market, thus, changing the economic roles of wives in the family.

How has the procedure for awarding alimony changed since then? For obvious reasons, the husband was obliged to pay financial support to his wife, who had no employment prospects or earned several times less than her husband. 

Alimony was prescribed for a long time, often for life. Today, there is a trend against permanent spousal support in many states, primarily because of the changing economic roles of husbands and wives.

In many modern families, however, women still play the role of a homemaker, which inevitably affects their professional activities. The need to raise children and take care of the family reduces their professional value in the labor market. After divorce, many women experience difficulties finding a job that would allow them to maintain their previous living standards.

Factors influencing spousal maintenance

Fortunately, a career sacrifice for the family’s sake is a significant factor for awarding alimony and determining its amount and type. Each state has some slight differences, but generally, the factors influencing spousal support are as follows:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The age and health of spouses;
  • Contributions of a requesting spouse as a homemaker and parent, and to the education and career of the other spouse;
  • Income and future earning capacity;
  • The presence of children;
  • Property left to each party after divorce;
  • Any history of domestic violence with documented evidence.

What are the types of spousal support?

  1. Permanent (which does not mean life-long). In some states, it is also called open durational alimony and cannot exceed the length of the marriage. Typically, it lasts half of the time the spouses were married. It terminates if the spouse receiving it remarries or cohabits with another romantic partner or dies. In some states, divorce laws consider retirement as a reason to stop paying spousal support.
  2. Temporary (pendente lite). This type of alimony is when spouses separate and file for divorce. It ends when divorce is final and can be substituted by another type.
  3. Rehabilitative. A spouse can receive this type of alimony until they become self-supporting, e.g., acquire some skills, education, or training to find a job. A woman typically receives rehabilitative alimony if she sacrificed her career to raise the family.
  4. Reimbursement. It is used for marriages that lasted less than five years. This type is meant to compensate the receiving spouse for the time and contributions they made to help the other spouse enhance their careers.
  5. Lump-sum alimony. It is a one-time payment and usually used to compensate a requesting spouse’s share of marital property after divorce.

Women’s rights to child custody

Until 20-25 years ago, a woman would almost automatically get custody of children after divorce. Today, it depends on various factors. The U.S. Family Law courts began to award joint custody a lot more often than in the past. It is widely believed that the participation of both parents in the child’s life has a beneficial effect on their healthy development.

 For this reason, there is a common tendency to split a child’s time 50/50 between the parents.

There are different circumstances that a judge takes into consideration when determining the child’s fate. For example, suppose a father wasn’t involved in his children’s lives and didn’t express any interest in them before the relationship dissolved. In that case, a judge might consider giving sole custody to a mother. 

Other factors, such as family violence, child abuse, or neglect, would prevent a father from seeing his children often or forbid it entirely. An important note is that even if a father does not spend time with kids, he must pay child support.

Child custody determination is a sensitive matter. These days, the courts are not so concerned about why the marriage failed in a divorce petition. It’s a child’s well-being that gets all the attention. Unless a father is unfit to be a parent and would pose a threat to a child’s physical or mental health, a judge would most likely order joint custody. It means that both parents will have equal roles in raising their kids.

Children usually live with one parent, while the other has visitation rights. If a mother receives primary residential custody, a father would have visitation rights. He could take the kids for the weekend, spend more time with them during the holidays or the summer break. 

It all depends on the court order. In amicable cases, the parents draft a joint parenting plan and file it with other divorce papers. This way, they get more control over the divorce outcome.

Women’s property rights in a divorce

All items that spouses bought or acquired during their marriage are called marital property. The most valuable are houses, cars, money in bank accounts, securities, and retirement savings. 

Unless a couple signed a prenuptial agreement with a detailed description of marriage entitlements, the marital property would be divided between the spouses in a way that the court deems fair.

Is a wife entitled to a family house?

The primary task here is to figure out whether the house belongs to separate or marital property. If a woman bought it before the wedding, it’s her individual asset. But if both parties paid the mortgage or contributed to its increase in value, it may be considered marital property. 

“When it comes to the house and other real estate, the two most common choices are selling and dividing the proceeds,” says Jody Bruns, a certified divorce lending professional. “Or one party can do an equity buy out of the other through a refinance of the property or with the division of other assets.”

A judge can order to sell the house and split the money or grant the residence to one spouse. When a woman has child custody, the court most likely allows her to stay there with the children if that’s what she wants.

How much of the husband’s pension will a wife get?

A portion of the pension that a husband earned during the marriage is also considered a joint asset. To get a share of it, which is not always 50%, a wife has to ask the court for it during a divorce process using a qualified domestic relations order. 

A QDRO is issued by the court and only applies to pension accounts included in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. For instance, a QDRO is used for 401(k) but not for IRAs. The qualified domestic relations order establishes the percentage an alternate payee will get and can sometimes secure child support.

Who will pay off the debts?

Debt division in a divorce is a somewhat controversial point. It often requires the involvement of an experienced divorce lawyer. It depends on who incurred the debt and whose name is on it. If a wife got the debt in her name for her husband to use, she is still responsible for its repair. The same goes for joint credit cards.

During divorce proceedings, the court will consider all financial liabilities and decide how to divide them between the spouses. When the judge issues the order, a person will be responsible only for the assigned debts. In most cases, it is beneficial to resolve this issue before going to court. 

“If you are able to do this,” writes Brette Sember in her book The Complete Credit Repair Kit, “you can divide your debts in a way that both of you can manage, rather than end up with a plan made by a judge who will not have the same insight into your situation.”

What happens to a wedding/engagement ring after divorce?

As was mentioned earlier, only marital property can be divided after divorce. Gifts such as wedding rings fall under this category. An engagement ring is classified as separate property because a wife obtained it before the wedding. 

It is also a conditional gift – a promise to get married. If marriage was concluded, the condition has been met. Thus, a wife has the right to keep her engagement ring after divorce without compensating its value to her husband who gave it.

Final words

Modern divorce laws are less gender-biased than they were a few dozen years ago. Fortunately, women and men are now in the same conditions. Today, the outcome is all about fairness and using a gender-neutral perspective. 

It does not mean, though, that the court system is perfect. So every decision a woman makes should be weighed carefully to help her build a post-divorce world the way she wishes it to be.

The Rights of Teenagers During the Divorce Process


While many parents are nervous to get to the teenager stage, knowing that it brings with it more serious issues and conversations, this can also be a very positive parenting time as you help your child gain more independence and get ready to face the world without the immediate parental buffer. Whether you’re going through a divorce right now or split from the other parent years ago, there are some very specific things to be aware of when it comes to divorce, teenagers, and what say they might have in the process. We’ve compiled some key issues and what you need to know in this article.

Rights of Teenagers

Any parent of one knows that teenagers have a mind of their own, and this age group can be the most vocal about who they want to live with and why. In many cases in recent years, courts have been moving toward more evenly split custody schedules, but often, one parent still has to be the residential parent for school purposes. If everything else is the same and you have a good relationship with the other parent when it comes to co-parenting, it might make sense to go ahead and let teenagers, especially older teens, decide who will be the residential parent. 

However, it’s important to remember that this really isn’t a right. There are some states that have specific ages where the children are allowed to “choose” who they live with. An example of this is Georgia. At age 14, the judge generally lets the child pick where they want to live for the purposes of the residential parent. However, the judge can and will override this if a case is presented that shows that the teen’s choice isn’t actually in their best interests.

In some cases, the courts will appoint a separate attorney to act in the teen’s best interest. In these situations, that attorney may present a case that goes along with the teen’s wishes, which can make it harder to fight if you disagree with the teen’s decision.

What Happens When They Turn 18

We generally think of a child becoming an adult when they turn 18, and this is legally true. However, there are still some scenarios where custody, visitation, and child support are still issues. For example, it’s very common for child support orders to state that the support continues until the child is 18 and has graduated high school with a max-out age of 19 or 20. Your teen might think that at 18 any child support still coming is theirs, but legally, it doesn’t work that way because child support is paid to the other parent and is not specifically paid toward any certain expense.

Once your child has turned 18, however, most custody and visitation arrangements are not enforceable. You can certainly continue the visitation schedule while your 18-year-old finishes high school as long as they want to, but the truth is that you can’t legally force them to continue with visits. An exception to this is cases that involve disabled children who are not able to care for themselves as adults. In these cases, the courts may decide that the visitation schedule must continue.

Rights of Teenagers by State

This chart gives a general overview of which states consider children’s wishes when it comes to custody and visitation, including some states that have specific ages where this comes into play.

StateAre Children’s Wishes Considered?
CaliforniaNot specifically
ColoradoNot specifically
District of ColumbiaNot specifically
GeorgiaYes, children 14 and older can decide
IdahoNot specifically
IllinoisYes, children 14 and older can decide
IndianaYes, for children 11 and older
MaineNot specifically
MarylandChildren 16 and older can ask for custody changes
MassachusettsNot usually
MinnesotaYes, depending on age
MississippiNot officially
MissouriNot specifically
MontanaNot specifically
NebraskaNot specifically
New HampshireYes
New JerseyNot specifically
New MexicoYes, especially at 14 or older
New YorkNot specifically
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaNot specifically
OregonNot usually
PennsylvaniaNot specifically
Rhode IslandYes, depending on age
South CarolinaNot specifically
South DakotaYes
TennesseeNot specifically
TexasNot specifically
UtahNot specifically
VermontNot specifically
WashingtonNot specifically
West VirginiaYes

Specific Issues Regarding Teenagers

Teens often have very busy lives, sometimes including school, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and everything they are involved in socially. This is something that parents should keep in mind when setting up custody and visitation schedules during the initial divorce and when altering or enforcing existing orders. Here are a few of the main issues that crop up during the teenage years.

Enforcing Visitation

It can be startling the first time that you turn to look at your child and realize that they’re taller than you are. It’s a new thing to be looking up at them. But the fact that your child is now the size of an adult can also present other problems, especially if you have a contentious custody situation. If your child doesn’t have a good relationship with the other parent and one day refuses to get in the car to go to their house, you very well may not be able to physically make them as you could a younger child.

It’s also very common for teens to need to change visitation arrangements because of school requirements, extracurricular activities, and even social events. As your child gets older they have more of their own schedule and you may have to contend with working your parenting time around their terms. 

Driving and Getting a Car 

Learning to drive and getting that first car is considered a rite of passage in our culture, with teens counting down the days until their 16th birthday. But if you and the other parent aren’t on the same page with when your child is mature enough to get a license, when and how far they can drive alone, or who will help pay for their first car, it can cause conflict.

Going to College

It used to be that the common path was to go to college right after high school. However, with rising costs of postsecondary education, student loan changes, and financial uncertainties, some are starting to reconsider this avenue. Graduating teenagers now may want to take a year or two off to travel or figure out what they want to do career wise before sinking time and money into classes or they may want to consider a trade instead. If this conflicts with what you had hoped for your children or if there is conflict between you and the other parent on these issues, it can be problematic.

How to Make It Work

As you’re trying to navigate these and other issues, it’s important to remember that your teenager is still a child. They may be taller than you and think they’re an adult, but they’re not. You are still the parent, and you still make the rules. It’s also important to keep healthy boundaries and treat your child as your child, not a friend. If there are issues that you and the other parent can’t agree on, you might have to take it back before the courts to decide. In this case, your teenager is very likely to be asked for their input and those wishes actually considered in the judge’s decision making. However, your teen needs to remember that judge’s also put heavy weight on what the parents think are best and wanting something isn’t a guarantee your teen will get it.

Create a Family Plan With the Other Parent

The teen years can seem like there’s a new issue around every corner. Curfews, relationships, social media, high school applications — it can seem like it never stops. While each parent is entitled to decide what happens in their homes, it can be very helpful if you are both on the same page when it comes to these larger issues. Consider meeting with the other parent for coffee to hash out some of these issues before they are actually in play so the two of you can present a united front and already know how you want to handle things when it comes up. You may also find that summing up the discussion in writing, such as through 2houses’ messaging or journal features, can make the guidelines easy to reference later on.  

The teen years may be considered the last true stage of parenting, but this isn’t actually true. Even after your children are all grown up, are moved out, and have families of their own, they will still need your support, guidance, and love.

The Rights of Preschoolers During the Divorce Process

Preschoolers children

As your child starts to leave diapers and naps behind and moves into a full-blown preschooler, there are lots of exciting milestones and certainly some challenges. Your child masters walking and talking and starts to express their needs better — and often loudly — but you may also see more emotional outbursts and find yourself playing the world champion version of 20 Questions. This age can also be especially susceptible to the inevitable upheaval that comes with divorce. Learn more about what rights your child has at this age during the divorce and some of the common issues you may face.

Rights of Preschoolers

Preschool children can more accurately express what they want and don’t want, but they’re still too young to fully understand the process of divorce. This is one reason why children of this age generally don’t have any rights when it comes to things like having a say in which parent they want to live with or how the custody schedule should be set up. 

If there are issues such as the child expressing fear of being at the other parent’s house or showing signs of abuse or neglect, it’s normal to be concerned. You may want your child to talk to the judge about what’s going on and what they’re experiencing. However, this isn’t usually something the judge allows. This is because children of this age can’t be consistently relied on to know the difference between a truth and a lie and so their testimony isn’t something that can be relied on in a legal setting. 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still fight for your child and what’s best for them — even if the issues at hand aren’t near as serious as abuse or neglect. One thing that can be beneficial is for your child to see a pediatric therapist who specializes in helping children whose parents are going through a divorce. These sessions usually involve play therapy and art therapy so it’s more like a fun playdate with a friend than the traditional therapy you may be used to. However, the therapist can  be called upon to testify in court or provide recommendations for what they think is in the best interests of the child when it comes to custody and visitation changes.

Specific Issues Regarding Preschoolers

Even though your preschooler may not have a lot of rights when it comes to the divorce process, their age means they still experience it in a unique way. Having a solid understanding of what issues you may face related to the divorce and this age is important to being able to predict problem areas and solve them before they become issues. Here are a few of the common potential problems to be aware of.

Cost of Preschool and Childcare

While there are some public preschool programs available in some states, many parents will end up paying for preschool out of pocket. It can be a large expense, and it can be ever larger if you also have to pay for child care before or after the official preschool hours. Preschool is often done on a half-day basis, which leaves parents working full-time needing extra child care. The problem becomes who pays for this expense. Child care expenses are included in the child support calculations in some states, but if they aren’t in your area, it’s a good idea to come to an agreement on how you’ll handle child care and preschool costs and put it in writing in the parenting plan.

Emotional Outbursts and Anxiety

You may notice your child having more emotional outbursts, nightmares, or worries at this age as well. One reason for this is that your child is understanding more about their environment and starting to understand the different concepts of past, present, and future and that things can change. This is also a normal time when children start to worry about their parents dying or other bad things happening to their family that they may see on the news or hear adults talking about. Divorce is a big change for your child, so it’s normal for this to bring up even more intense emotions and fears that your child doesn’t have the skills to handle and process yet.

Asking Questions About the Divorce

At this age, your child may also start to ask a lot of questions about the divorce. If you’re going through the process, your child may ask why you aren’t living with the other parent anymore, want to know if you still love each other and them, or when you’re all going to be a family again. If the divorce happened a while ago, your child may want to know what happened that caused the divorce or what life was like when you were still married. This is a normal part of your child processing the divorce and understanding where they came from and where they are going. It’s normal for children to be curious, and one of the best things you can do is answer as honestly and age-appropriately as possible.

How to Make It Work

Knowing what your preschoolers rights are and what to expect at this age when it comes to your child and the divorce is only half the battle. It’s also important to address things as they come up appropriately and from a joint perspective with the other parent if at all possible. Here are some strategies to get you started.

Provide Age-Appropriate Information

While it may be tempting to side step the questions your preschooler has about your divorce or what’s going to happen in the future, it’s best to answer them as matter of factly as possible Remember that your child doesn’t have the same life experiences or emotions attached to your divorce as you do, and often a simple, honest answer is enough to satisfy their curiosity and provide some security. For example, if your child asks, “Are you and Daddy going to get married again?”, your answer could be as simple as, “No, we’re just good friends now.” Being honest ensures that you’re not giving your child false hope, but answering simply also ensures you avoid over-explaining and giving your child more information than they really need to deal with.

Try to Stay Consistent With the Schedule

At this age, your child’s routine is very important. The sense of structure and stability that it brings them can be especially helpful during all of the changes that happen with a divorce. That’s why it’s a good idea to stay as consistent with your child’s schedule as possible. And this includes both their daily schedule as well as the custody schedule. While it’s common for parents to have different rules or ways they do things at the different houses, keeping key things like bed times the same can make things much easier on the child and the parents. You can use the calendar and journal feature on 2houses to make this even easier.

It’s also a good idea to do everything you can to keep to the visitation schedule that you’ve outlined. This ensures that your child knows what to expect and where they are going to be when and with whom. One way to do this that can help the child is to give them a calendar that’s color-coded for each day they spend with each parent. Then, your child can cross off the days on the calendar as they pass and always know when they will see the parent they aren’t with next. Of course, there will be times when the schedule has to change, and that’s OK too, but make sure to take the time to explain it to the child and let them know what’s happening next.

Take Advantage of Technology

Preschoolers, in particular, benefit from as much regular contact with both parents as possible. While it may not be realistic for your child to see both parents every day in person, you can leverage technology to help fill in the gaps. Phone calls and video chats can be a great way for your child to maintain connection with one parent when they are at the other’s house. These conversations don’t have to be long either — especially taking into consideration the attention span at this age. But even a quick 5-minute chat can help ease a child’s fears about a parent forgetting about them or maintain that connection with a quick “love you and goodnight” before bed.
The best thing you can do for your child is to keep yourself healthy, encourage a positive co-parenting relationship with the other parent, and make decisions in the best interests of your children. While this age can bring challenges, there are also many positives to embrace both for your child and your family as a whole.

The Rights of School-Aged Children During the Divorce Process

School-Aged Children

One of the best parts of being a parent is watching your children get older. Their personalities develop even more, they can carry on real conversations with you, and they no longer require the constant care that newborns and preschoolers can demand. However, growing up also brings some differences to the divorce process, how the child’s wishes are considered when it comes to custody proceedings, and what issues you may face in trying to co-parent your school-aged children.

Rights of School-Aged Children

While very young children and babies don’t have much to do with the divorce process, the courts do start to consider the wishes of the child in some cases. However, it’s important to understand the difference between your child’s rights and the court’s consideration. For example, in Arizona, the courts consider the child’s wishes when it comes to who they live with. However, this doesn’t mean that they have the absolute right to choose.

The courts are still tasked with making decisions in the best interests of the children, and the judge always has the final say. So even if your child tells the judge that they want to live with you, the other parent can still present a case to the court about why it’s in the child’s best interests to live with them, and the judge will have to make that decision. 

It’s set up like this because children don’t always know what’s best  for them — as any parent knows. In some cases, a child may just want to live with the most permissive parent who is going to let them do what they want, even if that’s to stay home alone, not have to do homework, or play video games all day. Allowing the child the absolute say in who they live with could also create the problem with the child wanting to switch houses every time they got into a fight with one of their parents. Neither of these situations would really be what is in the best interests of the child, and the courts expect the judge to be able to wade through all of this and make the decision that is in the best interests of the child.

Rights of Children by State

We’ve included a table below of whether or not each state considered the child’s wishes in custody and visitation matters. However, it’s important to keep in mind that laws change on a regular basis and much discretion is left up to the judge. It’s a good idea to always check with a family law attorney familiar with the laws and judges in your area before making any big decisions.

StateAre Children’s Wishes Considered?
CaliforniaNot specifically
ColoradoNot specifically
District of ColumbiaNot specifically
GeorgiaYes, children 14 and older can decide
IdahoNot specifically
IllinoisYes, children 14 and older can decide
IndianaYes, for children 11 and older
MaineNot specifically
MarylandChildren 16 and older can ask for custody changes
MassachusettsNot usually
MinnesotaYes, depending on age
MississippiNot officially
MissouriNot specifically
MontanaNot specifically
NebraskaNot specifically
New HampshireYes
New JerseyNot specifically
New MexicoYes, especially at 14 or older
New YorkNot specifically
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaNot specifically
OregonNot usually
PennsylvaniaNot specifically
Rhode IslandYes, depending on age
South CarolinaNot specifically
South DakotaYes
TennesseeNot specifically
TexasNot specifically
UtahNot specifically
VermontNot specifically
WashingtonNot specifically
West VirginiaYes

Specific Issues Regarding School-Aged Children

While the main issues when you’re divorcing with school-aged children tend to hinge around custody and child support, there are some other factors that come into play at this age. Understanding what the difficulties and challenges are that can present during this time can help you and your child’s other parent create a plan — or change an existing one — that reflects your child’s wants and needs.

Playdates and Birthday Parties

Once your children are in school, this is often when they really start to make friends and develop social relationships. And with these relationships come more invitations to playdates and birthday parties. In most cases, this is a good thing, but if you have a custody schedule, it can complicate matters — particularly if one or both parents isn’t willing to be flexible or compromise. For example, if you only see your child every other weekend for overnight visitations and they get invited to an overnight birthday party on that weekend, that would be taking some of your time. If the other parent isn’t willing to let you make up the time or switch weekends, it can create conflict.

Extracurricular Activities

The ages of 5 through 12 are often when children start participating in group sports and extracurricular activities or become more invested in these things. Maybe your child just smiled and waved from the baseball field during tee-ball, but now they want to be part of a traveling baseball team. These types of extracurricular activities can put a huge strain on the custody and visitation schedule. While tools like the 2houses calendar feature can help you keep track of who needs to be where when, it may eventually require some additional accommodations to be written out in your official agreement. The cost associated with these things, as well as which activities your child will participate in, are also often points of contention between co-parents.

Emotions and Puberty

While many parents think of puberty and hormones taking hold in the teen years, this process actually starts much younger and the first stages of puberty in girls especially can start as early as age 8. You may notice that your child is more emotional, has more frequent tantrums, or seems to be easily stressed, anxious, or depressed. All of these things can also be made worse by the conflict and change that happens with a divorce. 

How to Make It Work

At any state of co-parenting, communication is key, but this is even more true during this time when your children start to develop lives of their own and you may feel more like a chauffeur than a parent. Here are some strategies that may help you navigate this part of the parenting journey.

Talk to an Attorney

The best thing you can do for yourself and your children when you’re trying to figure out what rights your school-aged children have during the divorce process or how you can handle issues that may come up is to be informed. Most often, this means talking to a family law attorney. Many people think of seeking legal counsel as a move toward conflict in the divorce process — or even after the divorce is final. But knowing what the laws are in your state and how the judges in your area usually handle things can actually provide you and the other parent with critical information that can make it easier to come to a compromise or address things out of court. 

Even if you just want to make an official change to your custody arrangement that you both agree on — such as who will be designated the residential parent for school purposes — an attorney can ensure that you file everything correctly and help you get through the process as efficiently as possible.

Present a United Front

This is the age when children really start learning to play their parents against each other. They learn that if one parent says no, the other one might just say yes without even ever knowing the first parent already gave a decision. This happens in every household, regardless of marital status, but it’s just logistically easier for children of divorced parents to try to manipulate the parents against each other to get their way. 

The two main ways you can help stop this is to make sure that you stay in open, honest, frequent communication with the other parent and learn that it’s OK for your child to be upset with you. When our children are little they throw temper tantrums in the grocery store and we understand that 3-year-olds are like that sometimes, but when they get older, they learn to make reasoned arguments and use your insecurities and parental guilt against you. It can be helpful to have a canned answer, such as “I’ll have to think about it and get back to you” so that you can have the time to talk with the other parent and make sure you’re both on the same page with whatever the issue or request is.

The Rights of Babies and Toddlers During the Divorce Process

Babies in divorce process

Any time you are going through a divorce and there are children involved, it adds another layer to be aware of. This is even more true when the children are very young. They cannot yet express their needs, fears, wants, and anxieties well — or at all — and that can make it more difficult to be sure that the decisions you are making are what’s best for your children. However, knowing what issues may come up and how the courts deal with determining the best interests of children at this age and having strategies in place to navigate it all can help.

Rights of Babies and Toddlers

One of the first questions that parents have when they start going through a divorce is “what rights do my children have?” In the case of very young children, they obviously won’t be given  specific say in the matter by the courts. This is because they may not even be verbal enough to communicate their preferences, but even if they can, they clearly are not mature enough and do not understand enough about what’s going on and the implications to have any part in the decision-making process.

However, your children do have the right to be properly taken care of and loved and to have a positive, interactive relationship with both parents. The courts generally try to do everything they can to keep both parents involved in the child’s life as much as possible. However, the most important thing from the court’s perspective is the best interests of the child. 

Specific Issues Regarding Babies and Toddlers

How divorce affects the children and what issues will need to be addressed and worked out depends heavily on how old the children are. In the case of babies and toddlers, there are some specific issues that come along with this age that you may need to talk about with the other parent and explicitly state in the parenting plan of your divorce agreement. We’ve covered a few of the most common scenarios below to help you get started.

Babies Currently Breastfeeding

Trying to figure out a custody plan and visitation schedule if your baby is still nursing can be very difficult. While some mothers can pump if the baby is going to be away for a short time, some babies refuse to take a bottle and long separations between the mother and child can interfere with milk supply. Some states do have special considerations for custody and visitation if a child is still breastfeeding, and you may also be able to point to previous court decisions in your state that show that the breastfeeding relationship is an important factor in determining custody and visitation.

Long-Distance Custody Schedules

It’s not unusual for one parent to want to make a long-range move back to family or for a better career opportunity after a divorce. In these cases, the traditional way of handling it is to designate one parent as the primary custodian and the other parent gets extended visitation in the summers and over most holidays. But this doesn’t work as well when the child is very young. An 18-month-old, for instance, may experience severe distress at being separated from his primary caregiver to go spend the summer with the other parent whom he hasn’t seen in 6 months. Babies and toddlers don’t have the developed sense of time and relationships that older children do, and this is important to consider when making decisions.

Separation Anxiety 

A very common developmental milestone in babies and toddlers is separation anxiety. This can start as early as 5 months or so, but most parents notice it starting to happen more often around 9 months of age. Separation anxiety can last a few years, so it’s something to be aware of as you figure out the best custody schedule for your family and how you’re going to handle helping your child transition from one household to another. Separation anxiety is very normal and is seen in nearly all children, but how it’s handled through a divorce and moving between households can make a big difference in how quickly your child moves through it and what further issues may crop up later.

How to Make It Work

When it comes to coming up with the best custody and visitation plan for babies and toddlers, things work best if both parents can set aside their differences to focus on what’s best for the children. Mediation can be a powerful tool to help parents figure out reasonable compromises that are suitable for both sides and help them avoid the more divisive process of going through a divorce trial. Below, we’ve provided three strategies to help you get started creating a plan that works for everyone involved.

Put the Focus on the Kids

Divorces don’t usually happen because everyone likes each other and gets along well. It can be very difficult to separate out your personal feelings about the other parent and the circumstances that brought about the end of the relationship, but it’s very important to try. One of the best gifts you can give your children is to at least be civil with their other parent. Even very young children can pick up on and be affected by the tension and negative emotions that happen when the parents can’t get along.

While it may seem like you’re soon not going to have to deal with the other parent very much, this just isn’t true. There will be many events and special days in the years to come, including holidays, first days of school, birthday parties, high school graduations, weddings and the birth of your grandchildren. As much as possible, try to keep the big picture in mind and remember that what you do and say now is setting the stage for decades of interactions in the future.

If you are still in the midst of the divorce process and there are disagreements over the financial aspects, try to keep those separate from anything to do with the children. Even child support shouldn’t factor in to how often and under what circumstances either parent sees the children. These are separate matters, and the more you can keep them that way the better.

Set Flexible Schedules and Routines

You’ve probably heard that babies and toddlers do well with routines, and this is true, but being too rigid can make things more difficult. For example, if you have an every other weekend visitation, but the child is sick with a fever, it may make more sense for the child’s comfort to stay with the main custodial parent or for the other parent to visit at the child’s house instead of the parent’s. Being flexible and communicating with the other parent about what is going on with the child and being open to compromise as issues arise can keep things working well.

It also helps to be on the same page as much as possible with the children’s daily schedules and routines, such as meal times or bedtime routines. 2houses’ features like the information bank and journal let you share these things with the other parents without having to search through text or worry about forgetting important info. And it also provides a way to keep the other parent updated on how the child is doing when they are away from their house.

Plan to Revisit

A last thing to keep in mind when you are working on custody and visitation involving very young children is that things will change in the future — and more quickly than you think. When your child is ready to go to preschool, you will likely have to do another overhaul of the physical custody agreement, so it’s a good idea to just go ahead and plan to revisit the agreement every so many years or at specific milestones to ensure it’s still a good fit for the parents and the child. Some times to consider re-evaluation may be:

  • When a breastfeeding infant is weaned
  • At the start of preschool
  • At the start of kindergarten
  • Any time there are specific life changes happening such as playing competitive team sports in elementary school or getting a driver’s license at age 16

Scheduling these re-evaluations can give you and the other parent a chance to get out in front of any issues that may be coming up instead of just trying to react after conflicts or disagreements have already taken place. Knowing that things aren’t set in stone forever can also make it easier for parents to work toward compromise.

The bottom line is that what’s best for your children is what’s best for you when it comes to divorce, custody, and visitation. Open communication, trying to understand the other person’s perspective, and continuing to work as a team and a family even when there is no romantic relationship there are the keys to making it work.