Legal Updates

Arrangements For Children, Safety And Financial Needs

This article is part of our demystifying separation series. For more updates, click here.


 What arrangements need to be made for our children?

If you are separating, you will need to consider what the immediate and long-term care arrangements will be for your children. Try to work out a consistent contact and care arrangement with your ex-partner that works in the short term - particularly if one of you living in temporary accommodation whilst you finalise your separation. It is typically best to try and keep things as close to “normal” for the children as possible while matters are being resolved, as far as the circumstances allow.


In terms of long-term arrangements, you and your ex-partner can agree to parenting arrangements on an ongoing basis. When making a plan, ensure to consider all aspects of shared care including:

  • what days the children will be in each person’s care;
  • what times changeovers happen and where they happen;
  • what arrangements will be on birthdays, holidays, and other key dates;
  • how you and your ex-partner will communicate with each other (particularly if communication has been difficult since separating).

Your children’s needs and interests are the determining factor when considering care arrangements. Typically, the older your children are and the more they able to express their own views about their living arrangements, the more weight their views will have on any decisions made. For this reason, you cannot make a parenting order for children over the age of 15. Make sure you listen to what you children want and respect their views even if you may disagree.


If you want to formalise an agreement, you can create a written parenting agreement. Your lawyer can assist you with this.


If you are concerned your partner may not adhere to the agreement, you can apply to the Court to seal it as an Order. This means you will be able to apply to the Court to enforce the agreement if your partner does not follow the arrangements you agreed to.


Talk to your lawyer about what your options are if you can’t agree to long-term parenting arrangements. They can help you negotiate a resolution, or, if that is not possible, advise you what your options are.  


How will I support myself if I am not the main income earner?

If you are concerned about your personal finances after separation compared to your partner’s, you may have entitlements to financial help. Talk to your lawyer about whether any of the following may apply to you:

  • whether you should be receiving financial contributions from your partner to help you meet your reasonable needs after separation (this is known as “spousal maintenance”):
  • whether you could be entitled to an adjustment to the division of your property to compensate you for any imbalance in income and living standards after separation, which has resulted from the division of functions during the relationship – for example, where you have had the primary care of the children whilst your partner earned the family income:
  • whether you should be receiving any child support contributions from your partner to help you meet the needs of your children as the primary carer.

Deciding to separate doesn’t mean you need to flip the script in terms of financial arrangements straight away. Consider maintaining the status quo in terms of financial and living arrangements until you have resolved all the major legal and practical issues.


If this is not an option, you will need to consider whether you or your partner needs financial support while the separation is being finalised, and whether that support will be required on an ongoing basis after separation (and how long for).


If the separation is not amicable, what steps can I take to ensure my children and I are safe?


Sometimes separations are not amicable, and you may be concerned about your physical or psychological safety at the end of a relationship. There are some legal avenues for putting in place protective measures to ensure your safety and the safety of your children.


You can apply to the Family Court for a protection order where there has been past violence (whether physical or emotional) and a real risk of that violence reoccurring. Protection Orders prevent your ex-partner from contacting you or your children. Penalties for breaching a protection order are serious.


You may also be able to apply for occupation or tenancy of the family home, or retention of any of the household items (e.g. a vehicle, or items in the home) along with a protection order, if necessary for your safety or safety of your children.


You can put protective measures in place when agreeing to contact arrangements with children. This could include requiring your ex-partner’s contact or care of your children to be supervised. This could be by another trusted adult or by a professional.


If you need tailored legal advice regarding any of the matters we discuss in these articles, get in contact with a member of our team: Ruth WilliamsJaesen Sumner.