WHAT TO TELL THE KIDS



Paula Phelan is a Family Lawyer with Specialist Accreditation in this area from the Queensland Law Society. She has been a lawyer for 26 years and is the director of Phelan Family Law, a Rockhampton legal firm specialising in Family Law only.



When do I tell the children that their father/mother and I are separating?


There is no good time to tell children that their parents are separating. It is certainly better to have the discussion sooner rather than later – don’t leave it until the night before one parent moves out. If you can, both parents should tell the children together.


Now, that sounds easy, and it is not always possible to have a family conference to discuss these things.


It is very important, however, that you and your partner make every effort to reassure them that they are loved and that you both will work out when they will be seeing each of you and where they will be living.


Children thrive best with routine and predictability. It is vital that the children feel safe, secure and loved by both parents.


You and your ex-partner may benefit from seeking expert advice from a Child Psychologist about how to tell your children about the separation, and how to guide and support them through the process.


Can I move to another city with the children, without consulting my ex-partner?


No, you must consult with the other parent and obtain their written consent before you can relocate with the children. You should also come to an agreement about the time the children will spend with the other parent.


Relocating unilaterally can have a catastrophic impact on children. If one parent is, say, in Rockhampton and the other wants to move to Sydney with the children, the time that the children spend with the parent in Rockhampton is negatively impacted.


Every day, the Courts are faced with making decisions which have to balance a parent’s right to freedom of movement with the best interests of the children, and the children’s right to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.


If you wish to relocate to another state, or even to another suburb where such relocation will negatively impact on their time with the other parent, you must obtain the consent of the other parent or seek an Order from the Court.


If you fail to do this and relocate unilaterally, the other parent can apply to the Court to bring you and the children back to your previous location. This will impact the children negatively. Every major decision that you make should be done with the children’s best interests and needs in mind.


I send birthday and Christmas presents but the other parent won’t give them to the children.


This is another example of separated parents continuing their fight over the breakdown of their relationship, and directly involving the children. The children are the ones who get hurt, not the parents.


The children should be provided with letters, cards and gifts given by the other parent, and they should be encouraged to have regular communication with the other parent. This can be by telephone/Facetime/Skype when they are not spending time with them face to face. This is beneficial to the children’s overall wellbeing and development. Obviously, if there are issues relating to Family Violence and/or risk, our advice may change in this respect.