Even though you are separating, both parents are the most important people in your child/ren's lives. The best arrangements for the future are those where:

  • the children continue to have a loving and meaningful relationship with both their parents and other family members
  • both parents continue to share responsibility for their child/ren
  • the children live in a safe environment, with no violence or abuse.

What happens to child/ren after separation?

Separation is usually a stressful time for your child/ren and they may react in different ways to separation or divorce. How they react often depends on the child’s age, temperament and the level of cooperation or conflict between the parents.

They may experience a range of emotions that are difficult for them to deal with. If you or your child/ren are feeling stressed following separation, see the publication Separation and Stress.

They may experience a range of emotions that are difficult for them to deal with. If you or your child/ren are feeling stressed following separation, see the publication Separation and Stress.

However, if children are supported and encouraged to maintain a positive relationship with both parents, grandparents and other relatives, they are more likely to adapt to the changes.

Children from separated families can develop and flourish just as well as other children, especially if they continue to have supportive and caring relationships with parents and other significant people in their lives, like grandparents, and other relatives.

For information about how children of different ages relate to separation, the following web pages have been developed for 5-8 years, 9-12 years and 13 years and older.

The Marriage, families and separation brochure also provides information for people considering, or those affected by, separation or divorce.

For information about how children of different ages relate to separation, the following web pages have been developed for 5-8 years, 9-12 years and 13 years and older.

The Marriage, families and separation brochure also provides information for people considering, or those affected by, separation or divorce.

What do children need?

Children need the continuing care and support of both parents. They will worry less if you can agree about what is going to happen and explain why to them. You should both:

  • reassure your child/ren that you still love them
  • remember that accepting and dealing with the separation will enable you to better assist your child/ren to do the same
  • allow your child/ren the right to love both of you – don't make them choose
  • tell your child/ren that they are not to blame and help them to discuss their feelings – they often blame themselves, especially when parents fight about them or things they have done
  • listen sympathetically to your child/ren's feelings and opinions without judgment
  • talk with the other parent about issues relating to your child/ren
  • make sure your child/ren don't hear or see you fighting
  • keep your child/ren out of your arguments with or about the other parent
  • be positive about the other parent when talking to your child/ren
  • turn to other adults for emotional support rather than to your child/ren
  • talk with your child/ren's teachers so they understand the situation, and
  • keep your focus on your child/ren's well-being rather than on what is 'fair' for you.

What do you need to consider when making parenting arrangements for your child/ren?

Every family is different, so the arrangements that work for your family may be different from other families. Try to make arrangements that will work the best for your child/ren.

When making arrangements for your child/ren, you will need to consider:

  • the age of the child/ren which is very important in deciding what arrangements will work.
  • establishing a regular routine so the child/ren know the routine and what to expect when, but also be flexible when required.
  • giving plenty of notice if you wish to change the routine, for example, for special family occasions.
  • whether it is reasonably practical for the child/ren to spend equal time or substantial and significant time with each parent (substantial and significant time includes weekends, school holidays and days other than those)
  • how their time will be spent with other significant persons in their lives, such as grandparents and other relatives
  • who will look after them after school and where will they spend holidays
  • any other things such as choice of school, health care, sport, or religious matters, and
  • how to ensure that the child/ren continue to enjoy their culture.

Other resources

There are booklets that may help separating parents work out the best future arrangements for their child/ren. The following are available on the Department of Human Services website:

The Department of Social Services are now responsible for the following publications:

You can order by calling 1800 050 009 between 8:30am and 5:30pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays) or download from www.familyrelationships.gov.au

The Attorney-General's Department also has a helpful publication, Parenting Orders - what you need to know.