Reaching an agreement

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Talking with the other parent about the arrangements for the children

It helps if you:

  • don’t discuss arrangements where your children can hear you
  • focus on supporting your children
  • choose a good time and place for talking about plans, perhaps a telephone call after the children are asleep
  • don’t blame your ex-partner
  • put yourself in your children’s shoes and ask what’s really best for them
  • get someone who won’t take sides to help you sort out arrangements – like a Family Dispute Resolution provider.

Family Dispute Resolution allows you and your ex-partner to work out arrangements for your children in a neutral environment with an independent mediator. You can use it to discuss things like custody and arrangements for access to the children.

There is also a free information programme for parents called Parenting Through Separation.

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Arrangements for day-to-day care and contact

Different child care arrangements will work for different families. When planning for the future:

  • put your children’s interests first
  • ask your children what they think
  • talk to each child alone about what they want and need
  • remember, your children need a strong relationship with both of you – try to have an arrangement that allows this to happen
  • understand your children’s sense of time is different from your own – a child under six finds a week a long time
  • Plan child access changeovers carefully. If they tend to create arguments or problems, ask friends to help by doing the changeovers at their house so you can avoid seeing your ex-partner
  • Another way to do changeovers is to arrange to drop your child off at school or daycare and have your ex-partner pick them up afterwards
  • Work out what’s practical and realistic for your family. Then write down the access arrangements you have agreed on and stick to them.

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Options for care of children arrangements

There are many ways you can arrange for how you care for your children. There’s no right way. Just focus on what will let you and your ex-partner give your children the best care. Some of these options could include:

  • children spending a week with each parent, with a meal and a night stay at the other parent’s home during the week (this can help break up the time for younger children)
  • children spending half their time with each parent with a mid-week swap over at school
  • teenagers deciding their own parenting arrangements as they get older, as long as both parents know what is happening and are OK with everything
  • one parent having day-to-day care during the week, and the children staying with the other parent every other weekend and for half of the school holidays
  • parents living close to each other with the children moving between houses
  • children staying in the family home and parents taking turns to stay there with the children (perhaps as a temporary arrangement).

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Other things we need to plan

Regardless of your parental custody and child care arrangements, you need to think about how you’ll mark special occasions, school holidays, birthdays, school, sports and other functions like major family/whānau get-togethers:

  • remember how important these events are for your children
  • listen to what your children want to do
  • plan to make them great occasions for your children
  • make sure you sort things out long before they happen and let everyone know, especially your children.

These times can be very hard for everyone, especially in the first year after separation or divorce, but they usually get easier as time goes by.

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Getting on with your ex-partner


  • stick to the agreed custody arrangements for the sake of your children
  • only make changes without your ex-partner’s agreement in an emergency. Also be understanding if your ex-partner has to do this. You may be in the same situation in the future.
  • make sure you tell your children yourself if you change access arrangements with your ex-partner to suit yourself. Don’t leave it to your ex-partner to explain it to the children.
  • keep your ex-partner up to date with how to get hold of you in emergencies
  • co-operate with your ex-partner and be fair about access
  • be kind and supportive on issues around your children.


  • keep fighting, especially in front of your children
  • use your children as spies to find out about your ex-partner’s life
  • ask your children to pass on messages to your ex-partner
  • say unkind things about your ex-partner in front of the children.

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Getting on with your children


  • stick to the agreed arrangements – otherwise your children will be disappointed
  • let your children know what the plans are
  • make your children your first priority when it’s your turn to have them
  • do the normal things parents do, like monitoring and supporting your children, and
  • doing as much everyday stuff as possible
  • have fun with your children – leave your work until later
  • look for free, fun activities
  • keep communication with your children open
  • tell your children that you love them.

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