3 Common Mistakes People Make when Drafting Parenting Agreements

by Lorrie Brook / OCA / 24 Aug 2015

Today we’re talking about the three common mistakes that people make when they’re drafting parenting agreements.

The first one is that parenting agreements are left open for interpretation; that is, they make very generalised orders. So the orders (or parenting agreement) might read something like:

  • the children live with mum and they spend time with dad;
  • or the children will spend half of each school holiday period with each parent;

Thereby having something very generalised when everything is open for interpretation.

What you want to see is when do they spend time with dad; which half of holidays do the spend with which parent and does that half change in alternate years or does one parent always have the first half, does one parent always have the second half? That’s the type of specifics that we’re looking for and that don’t always come in parenting agreements/orders. Usually the reason behind that is because parents are getting along, you’re getting along well, you think there’s no need to think about what would happen when there are difficulties; but that’s what the orders are there for, they’re your backup position.

Number two is they don’t set times. For example an order may state that they’ll have the first half of Christmas Day or they will have the second half of the child’s birthday, or they will get to spend time with them on Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day. We don’t know when that first half starts, what time it ends.  Again, what time on Mother’s Day/Father’s Day - is it an all-day scenario; do you get them from 8am in the morning to 5pm in the afternoon? Are we talking overnight from the Saturday before Mother’s Day/Father’s Day to lunchtime on Mother’s Day/Father’s Day? When is changeover, when is drop off? They’re the specifics that we want. Even with telephone communication, what time can the other parent call so you know what time you either have to have your mobile phone switched on or you have to be home if it’s a landline call to answer the telephone. Okay, so they’re the specifics that we’re after with regards to times.

And lastly, my third thing is that people don’t think through scenarios. So the common example here is changeover. It might be that during school terms changeovers take place at school so you don’t need to have a backup venue, but what happens come school holidays when you’re having that changeover either in the halfway point or each week, if it’s a week-about scenario, where does changeover take place then? And whose responsibility is it, if it’s going to happen at your home whose responsibility is it to drop the child off and pick the child up? So they’re the specifics.

I suppose, when it comes down to it those are the three common mistakes that I’ve found with regards to parenting agreements, but it’s all about getting down to the specifics. The more specific you can be the better it’s going to help you. If there is a disagreement in the long run you’ll have something to fall back on.

I hope you found this helpful. If you want more information please come on over to www.OurChildren.com.au and you’ll find a whole other series as well as other resources where we can help you out.