Separated parents are encouraged to come to their own arrangements as to the day-to-day care (custody) of their children, which may involve sharing care equally (joint custody) or splitting it in a way which suits all concerned (shared parenting).
Key factors in choosing a custody arrangement:
- Time – Do you have enough time to spend with your children? For example if you cannot be home until 6pm during the week, you might be better to have them on the weekend.
- Location – How far apart do you and your ex partner live? Consider that your children will probably need to remain at the same school and also think about the logistics of moving them between houses.
- Stability – Can you provide your children with stability? This is relevant in an emotional and physical sense. You need to be in a frame of mind in which you can put the needs of your child first. You also need to have adequate facilities in terms of a stable home, bedrooms, furniture, toys and books.
- Relationship with your ex partner – It is important that the children’s upbringing remains consistent to avoid children having to abide by two sets of rules. In order to achieve this, it is best if the parties can communicate effectively regarding their children. Try to separate out your relationship as former partners and your relationship as parents.
Try to maintain open lines of communication when making this decision and put the needs and best interests of your child first, remembering that this involves a continuing relationship with both parents, and a stable family environment. If you are a father with a busy job, you do not need to be a “weekend dad”. It is certainly possible for you to have a significant share of the care of your children, and we can help you in obtaining a custody arrangement which you are happy with.
Road Blocks: tools for getting more contact
- Keep a diary – record conversations you have regarding your children, decisions you and your ex come to, questions you have and any advice you have received. This will be of great help in remembering details if the care of your children comes into dispute later on.
- Stay calm – when emotions run high, we can often make rash decisions which can have far-reaching consequences. Try to keep a clear head, it is in the best interests of you and your family to do so.
- Understand and address the concerns of the other party – If your ex partner expresses concerns about your behaviour or lifestyle, take the time to think about those and address them. Flying off the handle will not help your situation so remain calm in the face of criticism and do your best to be understanding and show you are making changes.
- Work towards a better relationship – if relations with your children’s mother are strained, do your best to work toward improving those. Try to separate your relationship as ex partners and your relationship as parents. Your children will benefit greatly if this can be achieved.
- Meet your obligations – do what you can to ensure you maintain a consistent routine, particularly with the children, and try to pay all bills on time.
- Maintain normality – as well as keeping up a stable routine, you should do your best to keep a sense of normality in the time your children spend with you. This means doing normal everyday activities and not continually treating them to gifts or trips to their favourite places.
- Get Involved – Participate as much as you can in your children’s lives. This might include getting more involved with their school and/or any extra-curricular activities such as sport or music.
- Make the most of contact – Even if you are not satisfied with the amount of contact you get, make the most of the time you do have with your children. Avoid any displays of resentment toward their mother and focus on enjoying your time together.
- Look after yourself – It is in your children’s best interests for you to be healthy and happy. Eat well, communicate well and maintain a positive attitude.
Agencies and Support
New Zealand Fathers Groups:
- The Father and Child Trust – http://fatherandchild.org.nz/
- Great Fathers – http://www.greatfathers.org.nz/greatfathers
- Office of the Children’s Commissioner – http://www.occ.org.nz/
- The Family Court – http://www.justice.govt.nz/courts/family-court/
How can we help? Please call us to arrange an appointment. In our first meeting with you, we will explain the law, your options and the outcome you can reasonably expect. We will also advise a fixed fee for your case and the likely time it will take to settle. You can contact us by phone on (09) 309 4647.
“The information posted on this website is prepared for a general audience, without investigation into the facts of any particular case. This information is no substitute for legal advice and does not create a lawyer-client relationship; you are advised to consult with a lawyer on any legal issue.”