When it comes to co-parenting decisions don’t stop when the Court Orders are dry. Just because you’ve signed off custody and school holiday care does not mean everything is done and dusted.
For many parents one of the biggest decisions they have to make together is deciding what school to send their children too. Reaching a joint decision on this can be extremely challenging even when parents are together, let alone when they are apart.
Collaborative Family lawyer Cassandra Kalpaxis says this is something she sees all the time at her practise Kalpaxis Legal in Sydney. So she’s giving her advice if you and your ex find yourself in this position. Cassandra also works as a mediator, and parenting coordinator helping families find resolution without the need for court.
EQUAL SHARED RESPONSIBILITY
It’s important to remember that the concept of equal shared parental responsibility applies to parents unless there is an order stating otherwise. This means that there is an expectation that collectively parents will share in the decisions jointly around education, health, travel and medical for children.
In the event that a disagreement arises it is important that parents take early intervention to assist them in reaching a resolution.
PLAN THE CONVERSATION
Try and discuss the topic in small bite size chunks.
If you know the conversation is going to get heated, set ground rules before you meet. Have expectations around:
- Language to be used
- Where the conversation is to take place (somewhere neutral)
- When the conversation will end (if ground rules are broken and when it can be picked up again).
If you are unable to have an independent conversation, then schedule a mediation with a registered FDRP.
It is the Mediators role to work with the parties to permit healthy dialogue and try to reach a resolution in the matter.
Mediations can be scheduled quickly and topics don’t need to be crammed into one session. They can be broken down into small mini mediations to allow the parties to think clearly and communicate or make decisions without pressure.
It is important to prepare for mediation in advance. Practice active listening, write down what is important to you and why. Think about where you could compromise. Practice meditation and breathing techniques to prevent overwhelm.
Further reading: 10 Smart strategies for successful mediation.
PARENTING COORDINATION (PC)
If you can’t reach a decision but are both committed to the process, Parenting Coordination could assist.
Note that PC is often a 12-month commitment by the parties and will deal with topics beyond schooling in that when the parties meet with the PC at the end of each month three topics can be used raised with the PC which will be workshopped.
A non-binding direction can be given by the PC which the parties will be directed to follow.
FILE A COURT APPLICATION
The last resort if the parties can’t agree is to file an application with the court seeking orders for the enrolment of the child into a specific school.
Be aware that this can be costly, time consuming and the court will be concerned about parents who cannot make decisions together about basic parenting decisions such as schooling.
If the parties agree whilst in court, the parties can reach a consent position and ask the court to make the orders by consent