LawTalk Blog

Care arrangements for children. Is structure and routine preferable?

Care arrangements for children of separated parents

The title of this blog may seem obvious in itself. We have all read articles and listened to conversations promoting the importance of structure and routine in care arrangements for children in circumstances where the parents have separated.  I do not deviate from such school of thought.

Psychologists have studied the effects and impact of consistency and routine on children from both separated and non-separated families and the results are overwhelmingly positive for children who have consistency in their daily routines. Routine provides a feeling of safety and security for children. Consequently, their behavioural patterns benefit and children are less likely to suffer from anxiety or fear.

It must be noted that the priority in the Family Court when hearing childrens’ matters is to ensure that the “best interests” of the children are met at all times.

Given the breadth of information available that routine and structure create feelings of security for children subject to care arrangements, it is clear that the court will favour arrangements that promote such consistency. Such arrangements are more often than not serving the best interests of the children.

Children and separated parents

Does it defy the concept of consistency to shuffle the children from household to household in order to share time with the children? And if the daily routines in each household are different (ie general rules about bedtimes, food consumption, television watching) is that not detrimental to the children?

"Does it defy the concept of consistency to shuffle the children from household to household... "

The short answer is ‘yes’; these differences can be detrimental and disruptive to children, therefore it is crucial that each parent work towards bridging such gaps.

In light of the above, it is imperative for each parent to consider the following:

  • Solid blocks of time with each parent are better than a few hours here and there.
  • Each week or fortnight should look the same regarding the time the children spend with each parent.
  • Each parent needs to respect the implementation of the care arrangements and honour them without making random changes here and there to suit themselves.
  • Each parent should share their routines with the other parent and find ways to mirror them (within reason and respecting individual parenting styles).
  • Parents need to balance their work schedules fairly in conjunction with the care arrangements for the children. Expecting your children to fit around a sporadic work roster may be deemed unreasonable by the court and may not align with the “best interests” requirement.

Understandably these points cannot always be followed precisely, particularly when one of the parents is problematic and refuses to communicate with the other party or follow care arrangements. In such circumstances it is advisable to contact a family lawyer as steps can be taken to remedy such difficulties. 

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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