How to organise a great co-parenting plan

Image of a teen leaning on a kitchen counter looking at her parents, who are standing close together and smiling.

This can help if:

  • you want to work out a co-parenting arrangement

  • you want to relate better with your ex-partner and make things easier on your teen.

How do you start?

It can be hard to know where to begin when you separate from your partner. There are so many things to figure out. When children are involved, it’s also important to consider how their lives will be affected by the change. Here are some strategies you can use to start the conversation with your ex-partner.

  • See if you can work out between you how to share time with your teen. If you’re on good terms, set aside time to talk. Use a task organiser like Trello to help sort out who’s doing what.

  • Use mediation if things are tense between you, or if you just want an impartial party involved. You can use a private mediator or go through a family relationship centre.

  • Get some advice from a solicitor, legal aid or community legal centre to make sure things are fair.

  • Go through the Family Court if mediation doesn’t work out, or if there was violence in your relationship. Your solicitor can sort this out for you.

Keep your teen in mind

It might be difficult to put aside your personal feelings regarding your ex-partner, but if you can agree that you both want what’s best for your teen, it will make the process a lot easier. When you’re organising the schedule, keep your teen at the centre of it all. Talk to them about what might suit their schedule. For example:

  • Does Monday to Thursday at one parent’s place make sense because their place is near school?

  • Does Friday to Sunday at the other parent’s place make sense because their place is near sports practice?

Try to keep arrangements simple and as close to normal as possible. For example, you could keep your teen at the same school, or the parent who is moving out could agree to find a new place in the same suburb.

You may have to be flexible when you’re sorting this out with your ex-partner. Before you have the conversation, it could be helpful to figure out how much you are willing to compromise, so you can set some boundaries for yourself.

If there’s future conflict between you and your ex-partner, it’s best to talk to them directly. Decide on a way of communicating that works for you both – a text, email or phone call would do. Don’t use your teen as a messenger or ask them to report on what your ex-partner is up to. It’s very stressful and upsetting if they feel they have to take sides.

What to do to make things go smoothly

Run through this checklist to help you stay on track:

  • Plan and decide on things in advance – what’s going to happen for birthdays, holidays, extracurricular activities like plays or sport games, school events and parent-teacher nights?

  • Work out who will go to medical appointments, and how information will be shared with all parents and carers.

  • Keep accurate records of shared expenses.

  • Be consistent with schedules and rules. Research shows that children need routines and structure in order to learn how to healthily manage themselves and their environments.

  • Keep your teen in the loop about any plans, and especially about any changes.

  • Agree on communication methods, and find creative ways to organise scheduling with your ex-partner (e.g. shared Outlook calendars, Google drive, Trello, Whatsapp).

  • Don’t bad-mouth your ex in front of your teen.

Be prepared to miss your child. Check out this single dad’s tips on staying connected with your kids even when you’re not physically with them. What’s important is that you and your ex-partner are cooperating to make things work for your teen. While this is all happening, also remember to take care of yourself!

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