How to create a safe, secure environment while sharing care after family violence.
One of the most difficult aspects of family law is coming to terms with sharing time when there have been allegations of family violence. Even when children are named on a protection order, the Family Court, after considering all the issues in front of them, may still order time with the other parent. This decision can be for a whole range of reasons and I encourage all parents to speak to their lawyer for more clarity on this.
The Order for time made by the Family Court does not invalidate the need for a protection order. In simple terms, it just means that the Family Court has determined that it’s in the children’s best interests to spend time with both parents while adhering to the conditions of the protection order.
For the ‘protective’ parent, this can be a very confusing and anxious time. There is often a range of fears and considerable frustration as they come to terms with living with these Orders. These fears are often generated by a sense of not having control of the situation, or perhaps unpredictability about what this means for the children.
So how can you co-parent under these circumstances?
By working in conjunction with a professional, such as a Parenting Coordinator or Family Therapist, parents can address their safety concerns and work with their co-parent to achieve incremental changes where necessary.
Addressing issues such as current confidence levels and fears or concerns helps to craft the beginning of the Protective Caregiving Plan. The focus then shifts to what safety measures are already in place and what education or events (time periods with no incidents) need to take place in the future to continually improve confidence in sharing care.
The next stage is about understanding the personal responsibility of each parent to protect and care for the children in a safe and secure manner.
The appointed professional is the intermediary in compiling this information that forms the foundation of the caregiving plan.
The concept of protective caregiving is to help victims of family violence improve their confidence in their children’s safety and to support the accused parent to a pathway of better parenting. It helps the protective parent come to terms with new living arrangements and generates (supported) dialogue between the parents about their concerns and their individual responsibility.
Supporting parents in this way helps to move on from the incidents that have occurred in the past and progress to a more confident life, focused on the wellbeing of their children.
In the absence of this progression, we are left with a protective parent who feels their children’s safety has not been considered or their fears have not been addressed. This often leads to difficulty in complying with Orders and re-litigation for the family.
It is just the beginning of the work to help victims manage their concerns in a supported way and to ensure that both parents are committed to protecting the children in all areas of their life.