After a separation, parents are often worried about how to sort out childcare arrangements for their children.  Coming to a parenting agreement can be challenging, particularly where the parents are not on good terms. 

Some of the tricky considerations include:

  • Will both parents share the care of the children, either equally or unequally, or will one parent have care of the children and the other have contact on regular times and days?
  • How will childcare expenses be divided?
  • How will decisions be made about the children? 

These are just a few of the things that must be considered.

A parenting agreement can deal with all of these issues, and give both parties some certainty about their parenting role after separation.  An agreement allows the parties to record their expectations of themselves and the other party, and this may reduce the amount of conflict between parents. 

It must be noted however that parenting agreements are not enforceable, unless you ask the Family Court to turn it into a Court Order. 

It is always better if parents can come to an agreement amongst themselves, but often that is simply not possible. 

If you and your ex-partner are struggling to agree on parenting, it might be time to get some assistance in order to move things forward.  A first step might be to contact a representative to assist you in negotiating a parenting agreement.  A legal representative can be a particularly good idea if you and your ex-partner are unable to communicate without conflict.  A legal representative might help you to remove some of the emotion from the situation, and keep the focus on the children.  If this does not work you may need to attend Family Disputes Resolution (“FDR”).

FDR is where a Mediator helps the parents to talk through the issues they are not agreeing on. The Mediator can also refer parties to counselling.  Lawyers are not present during the FDR, but they can help you to prepare for it if necessary.  If FDR is not successful then an application can be made to the Family Court.  Parties can complete the forms on their own but may also seek the assistance of lawyers if necessary. 

In some situations there may be urgent concerns around the children’s safety, or one parent may be attempting to remove the children from New Zealand.  In these cases, it is vital that you act fast and see a lawyer immediately to help you get an urgent application in front of a Judge quickly.  If the Judge agrees that it is urgent, you will not need to inform the other party, or attend FDR. 

Getting legal advice is very useful in terms of informing you of your parenting rights, and talking to a lawyer can give you the help and support you need to go through the process.