Children Have Priority
There is no more important issue than your children. The plans you make for your future will be shaped by their needs. Everything else that is important to you comes second to your children’s best interests. That is not some trite statement of the obvious. It is the standard that the law brings to your marriage breakdown discussions.
Your income earning obligations, those of your spouse, the management of your debt, the entitlement to possession of your home, how you spend your income, the nature of your lifestyle and even your ability to travel or change your residence is impacted by this issue.
Disagreements on Parenting After the Separation
Disagreement often arises between separating couples on what arrangements are best for the children. Which parent’s residence should be the “home” base? With whom should the children spend most of their time? There may be concerns with parenting ability. There are issues with work schedules. Where are the children going to attend school or daycare? Who will be responsible for meeting the children’s educational and medical care, managing children’s activities and maintaining contact with extended family? How do you handle the introduction of a new partner? These are all matters that can give rise to dispute.
The resolution of these and other equally important matters are seldom easy. They require trust, goodwill and a willingness to compromise. Unquestionably, these issues are best resolved through principled negotiation or mediation. The Court process should be a last resort.
There are few presumptions in coming to an agreement on what is best for the children. Every situation has elements that make it unique and these must be addressed. Whatever you know to be best for your children probably comes pretty close to the mark. Knowing where it is appropriate to compromise and achieve some middle ground is something on which you will need professional advice.
The amount of child support to be paid between the parents is a critical matter that demands early resolution. Medical and dental benefit coverage needs to be addressed as well as life insurance designation. What activities the children will be participating in and how that is to be paid for must be resolved. Contributions to Registered Education Savings Plans need to be agreed upon. Who is allowed to receive the available tax credits and dependency deductions must be determined.
A Court Application May be Necessary
When parents cannot agree a court application is necessary. Starting Court proceedings may motivate an unreasonable spouse to be more reasonable. An early Court decision on what the arrangements will be for “the time being” may provide some perspective on a reasonable settlement. Sometimes a spouse just needs to “hear it from a Judge”.
What that Judge is going to recommend or decide depends a great deal on what the arrangements were before separation and how you have been parenting the children since. What that has been is often in dispute. If there is a court application, almost every post-separation decision you have made on almost any issue will be viewed by the Court through the prism of your children’s best interests. You will often need professional advice on those decisions while working your way to a final agreement or court order.