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Co-parenting can be tough, especially when parents are finding it difficult to communicate following on from a volatile separation.

In an interview with US Weekly, Heidi Klum’s former husband, Seal, was asked about co-parenting arrangements and discussed how it can be challenging. It requires teamwork. If you are a team, if both parents are a team, then it’s really easy and that’s not a real challenge at all. But you have to be a team. And if you’re not a team, then it can all fall to pieces. “

For parents to co-parent effectively or as Seal puts it “be a team” there is often a discussion between parents at the outset surrounding the arrangements for the children, how the parents will work together and guiding principles or ground rules which they will agree to adopt for the benefit of the children. This can be an informal verbal arrangement however sometimes it may be beneficial to record what parents have agreed clearly in writing to avoid later conflict.

Once it is apparent that there is a dispute over child arrangements which cannot be resolved between the parents, it is advisable to seek legal advice, especially if the situation is impacting upon the children’s wellbeing.

A specialist solicitor in family law, not only provides advice about the law relating to child arrangements between parents but they can also refer both parents to a dispute resolution service such as mediation.

At family mediation, a mediator will help both parents to explore options as to how they can reach important decisions concerning the children; such as how much time each child spends with each parent. The mediator can also help the parents to improve their relationship so that they may co-parent more effectively.

If an agreement as to child arrangements is reached between parents, the details can be recorded in a parenting plan.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement made between parties such as parents (and other family members). It covers the practical issues of parenting.

It is advisable to start considering a parenting plan sooner rather than later, especially if relations are deteriorating.

Issues such as how the parents are going to communicate, to practical considerations concerning contact arrangements and how new partners will be introduced to the children, can all be set out in a parenting plan.

An example of a parenting plan can be found on the Cafcass website

A solicitor can assist in putting a comprehensive parenting plan together. A parenting plan is not legally binding, however, it can be submitted to court and formalised via a consent order subject to the Court considering it necessary for such an order to be made.

By making the agreement legally binding, the agreement can be enforced by a party if there is a breach of the agreement by the other parent.

If a parenting plan cannot be agreed upon, then a party might wish to issue an application for a Child Arrangements Order. A family law specialist can assist in preparing the relevant paperwork and submit it to the local family court.

Only certain people can submit an application for a Child Arrangements Order and others will require permission. A court will have expected parties to have attempted a parenting plan. The Cafcass website also provides a progress summary which can help when informing the judge of what is and isn’t agreed.

Whilst we understand that co-parenting can be challenging, learning to co-parent well is beneficial to all involved-especially the children who are often left feeling in the middle of parental conflict. Remembering that the needs of the children are paramount, will help focus attention on the children so that the parents can come to child-centred solutions.

Being considerate of each other’s feelings and recognising how best to communicate, will inevitably reduce conflict.

Having a detailed parenting plan will help everyone involved to know what is expected of them and will be a valuable reference as time passes and circumstances change.

At Consilia Legal we have helped prepare many parenting plans, guiding clients through the process and liaising with the other parent when communication becomes difficult. We offer a free initial consultation. If you wish to book in for an appointment, please call 0113 322 9222 or via email;