Hi. My name's Craig Turvey, I'm a special counsel at the Cooper Grace Ward family law team and today, I'd like to talk to you about parenting arrangements and a bit of crystal balling in terms of why the magical number of overnights that the children spend with both of their parents, there's no correct answer.
Wanting fortnightly arrangements to be equal
One thing that we often see with clients is they get very fixated on the number of specific overnights. Is it an equal time arrangement? And in family law world, we usually look at these in fortnightly arrangements. So, an equal time would be 7/7. Or is it a 9 to 5, a 6 to 8, 10 to 4, whatever the regime might be. Parents get very caught up on the number of overnights and exactly when it's staged and whether the children are ready and those sorts of things. And obviously that's particularly important for younger children where the developmental needs are different. They may not understand the separation if they're of a particular young age. Whereas for older children, they're generally more resilient. They'll understand what's going on. They have longer relationships with both parents simply because they're older and they transition between households much easier than sometimes younger children do.
Issues with juggling children between households
But from my experience, a lot of the issues in terms of the children going smoothly between households, it's often an issue with the parents and their behaviour and the anxiety they demonstrate. So, it might be that you might be trying to say all the right things. You might be saying, oh look, go have some time this weekend with the other parent, I know you'll enjoy yourself, etcetera, etcetera. But while you're saying that externally, your body cues are indicating something quite different and children can pick up on that very well, even from a particularly young age. So, what's important is that really, you're positive about whatever the regime is and you should probably try and keep an open mind in terms of the overnights. Again, there often is no magical answer. It may be that an equal time arrangement is appropriate, even though the children are particularly young just because they can cope with it. And in my experience, there really is a clear sort of correlation between how positive the parents are and how relaxed they are in terms of facilitating changeovers and time with the other parent and how well the children cope. So, I would focus your efforts a lot more, not ignoring the number of overnights. Obviously, that's important, but I'd focus your efforts more on ensuring that the transitions in the time between the other parent is a good experience for the children rather than necessarily fixating on that number of specific overnights.
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