So many separated parents are scared to rock the boat and talk about ‘consent orders’ with their coparent. They often say;
“We have verbally agreed, and it’s working OK” or
“I don’t want to create any conflict by suggesting we need our agreement legally enforceable” or
“We don’t need to, as we don’t have any conflict”
It’s a bit like saying “I don’t need a plumber until the pipes are blocked” but why wait until everything turns to sh$t?
It is so much harder to negotiate after a big argument when you are angry, upset and not in the right mindset to cooperate, be flexible or create a win/win solution. You may even find your children are withheld from you to punish you for the altercation as it triggered the pain of the breakup. It could be that you have started a new relationship, not agreed to pay for something your ex thinks you should, or your ex decides to move house which is over an hour away impacting your agreed time with the kids.
Imagine, a conflict that results in months or over a year as you go through mediation or await an outcome in court.
You might be thinking “nah my ex wouldn’t do that, and neither would I”.
Let’s call it an insurance policy, to protect you when a crisis happens.
You may have been treading carefully not to upset the ex, but coparenting isn’t really working for you. You may have fallen into doing most of the driving of handovers and feel resentful. Your work may have had some changes that doesn’t quite fit in with the original verbal agreement anymore. You may find if you do have an argument, you are punished and don’t get to see the kids until the argument is resolved. It’s stressful with so much anxiety, walking on eggshells and no certainty that your shared parenting time is locked in and committed to.
Consent orders provide you with a legal document that is to be adhered to and provides you with ability to gain a recovery order so the court can order your children returned if they are taken interstate or overseas to live without your permission.
At The Divorce Centre, we see many separated parents at the Parenting after Separation group course who have not seen their children for months or years. Initially, they have managed to be amicable with just a few niggly arguments that they have resolved. They have made arrangements work on the fly until conflict escalates and can end up in the federal circuit and family court. This is a very long process with a pre-requisite mediation and possibly engagement of a child consultant, independent child lawyer, family report writer, medical professional assessments, parenting after separation course, or anger management course and so on…..it is emotionally and financially draining.
So, if you have just separated or only have a verbal agreement in place on shared parenting, have that talk with your ex about creating a parenting plan that you can have a lawyer create into consent orders. If you don’t agree on the living arrangements, holiday shared parenting, special events, medical and education decision making, then do family dispute resolution mediation to reach agreement to then take to a lawyer to create the consent orders.
It is far easier and cheaper to negotiate and agree on consent orders when coparenting is civil as conflict is costly!
Don’t wait until conflict escalates with you fighting over the kids. Children can adjust and transition to the new family structure easier if the coparenting is not fraught with conflict.
Don’t you owe it to your kids to be child focused and be committed to consent orders to ensure the ground rules are set for shared parenting?
Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator & Author