While the splitting of assets and other financial matters can often be relatively quickly and easily resolved during the divorce process, bringing up children takes years, and no matter what, you will always share your children with your ex-partner.
However, when there is conflict, abuse and perhaps even violence, to the point where a restraining order has to be issued, co-parenting under these circumstances can become seemingly impossible for parents and potentially upsetting for the children.
Fortunately, there several things one can do to make life easier for everyone involved. Ella Hickman from Hickman Family Lawyers in Perth has put together her best tips for successful co-parenting when you have a restraining order in place.
Have A Parenting Plan or Court Orders In Place
It is of utmost importance for both parents and the children, to have a Parenting Plan or Court Order in place that specifies the exact terms and conditions how and when each parent will spend time with the children, despite there being a restraining order in place.
The Parenting Plan or Court Orders must make it abundantly clear to both parents how they can communicate all children’s matters between themselves or exchanging the children during handover times, without anyone breaching any terms of the restraining order.
If you find that some of the terms of the restraining order are impractical and hinder your ability to co-parent, you can discuss this with your family lawyer and ask them to apply for an amendment to the order if practical. Your family lawyer may also advise you to apply to the Family Court, to obtain parenting Orders that will effectively “override” parts of the restraining order.
In many cases, a restraining order will have a “no-contact” clause, making communication between the parents, and therefore successful co-parenting, virtually impossible.
There are however several ways round this stumbling block:
1. You can apply for an exemption to the restraining order for solely discussing parental matters.
2. You could apply for an amendment to the order, by allowing contact through telephone, email, text messaging or any social media platform.
3. You can have the order amended so that you can both use a third party to convey communications between the parents or the children.
4. You could have Court Orders that specify the use of a written, physical notebook or diary to communicate. Any child-related information you want your ex to know, is recorded and handed to them, either by the child or by a third party, and then returned.
5. Have Court Orders or a Parenting Plan which allows the use of a good co-parenting app. I recommend Our Family Wizard to my clients – there is a charge for this app but it’s definitely one of the best co-parenting apps in Australia. It includes a calendar you can share, a message board you can use instead of email or texting, a journal section to record observations or share photos, and even an expense log to record any shared parenting expenses in real time as you spend.
If your ex isn’t allowed to come near you, you can make use of a third person for handover times. That could be a close friend, relative, or a supervised visitation officer who can pick up, drop off and return your children, without any contact between you and your ex being necessary. Your family lawyer could suggest a suitable Children’s Contact Services company if required.
Attending School or Family Events
Most restraining orders will stipulate a set distance to be kept between the two persons, making the attendance of certain school or family events challenging. One way of preventing any breach of the order, is to alternate attendance to such events, or pre arrange different arrival times, or seating locations to comply with the restraining order.
Keep in mind that it is always the responsibility of the restrained person to ensure no clause of the order is violated.
Tools To Help You Co-Parent
Luckily, in today’s world, there are apps for virtually everything, and that includes co-parenting. These apps make it possible for parents to exchange information and communicate with each other, without making direct contact. Through shared journals, calendars, and even expense reports, parents could share information, documents and photographs, create schedules, and make children’s arrangements without the fear of violating a restraining order. However, you would need to have the restraining order amended, or sign a Parenting Plan or Court Orders, which allow the use of such apps.
There are numerous apps on the market, all come with different features. Look for one to suit your individual needs. Most can be downloaded on your phone. There may be a monthly or annual cost involved, but if it helps to avoid more conflict and trauma in your lives, it may be worth every cent.
As mentioned before, Our Family Wizard is one of the most comprehensive co-parenting apps in Australia. However, a quick Google search will help you find a co-parenting app that might be most suitable for your family needs.
Author - Ella Hickman
Owner and Principal of Hickman Family Lawyers, one of the leading family lawyers in Perth.