Helping your child cope with a separation


When a couple chooses to separate, the fallout for the family and their children can be new territory to navigate together. Here are some factors that can help protect your child emotionally during (and after) a separation from the lawyers at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers.


Determining what’s in your child’s best interest

How easily can you answer these simple questions about your children?

  • Is your child easygoing?
  • How do they respond when faced with stressful situations?
  • Does your child have a passion for a particular activity?
  • Are they developing his or her own specific talent?

Knowing the answers to these questions is important for all mums, but perhaps no more so than for parents facing a separation. Clear answers can really help parents when they are in the throes of a family breakdown and need to agree on arrangements that will be in best interests of their children.

Factors that can protect your child in separation

When parenting orders are being made for children after separation, the child’s best interests should be the main consideration. Very simple in theory, but complex in practice!

What to consider when working on parenting arrangements for children after separation:

  • A child’s temperament
  • Their level of resilience
  • Physical and intellectual “grit”

What the courts and professionals consider:

  • The relationship the child has with each of their parents
  • The attitude of the parents to the responsibilities of parenthood
  • The importance of maintaining a child’s relationship with both their parents and significant others

Bolstering your child’s protective factors: What you can do

Minimising conflict and improving the level of cooperation between parents will continue to be hugely important and almost steer much of the decision making process.

However an individual’s ability to impact conflict and cooperation can only reach so far.

In our experience if you are contemplating separation or have recently separated some important steps that you can consider in order to best promote your child’s interests include:

1. Know your child well, and be able to articulate who your child is and what they are about
2. Encourage “grit” in your child, and from an early age support them in finding their passion
3. Take part in reputable parenting courses, such as from Relationships Australia
4. Keep a diary listing your child’s routine, communications with your ex and any changes in your child’s behaviour that you notice. This will help you be able to identify patterns which may already exist or may begin to develop
5. Remain child-focused. Don’t agree to an arrangement with your ex to be “fair” to them. It is not about the adults
6. Take the time to communicate your decision-making process well to your ex so you show you are child-focused
7. Be cautious expecting a child of less than 4 years to be away from either of their parents for 3-4 consecutive days
8. Be consistent. Sticking to a routine (even a new or different one) will help your child adjust to their new situation


The lawyers at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers regularly help separated families secure appropriate parenting arrangements, often as part of achieving an overall final settlement. They also offer Accredited Specialists in the family law field and can provide sound and practical advice in relation to parenting and all other family law matters. Visit them here or call (02) 9437 0010.


Lisa Wagner is an Accredited Family Law Specialist, a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and the principal of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers. Lisa has been successfully helping people with their separation and divorce for over 20 years. Details are on the directory. Lisa practices from offices in St Leonards and lives with her family on the Lower North Shore. To find out more, please feel free to contact Lisa at [email protected] or on 9437 0010.

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