The dos and don’ts of separation – What is in the best interests of your children?

The law that governs the care arrangements for your children after you separate is called the Family Law Act (1975).

The Family Law Act (1975) says that children need the continuing care and support of both parents despite separation. 

In our experience your children will worry less if you can agree about what is going to happen and explain why to them without the need for costly and lengthy court proceedings. 

If you have recently separated and you have children you should try to speak with your partner as soon as possible following separation and have a discussion about what is in the best interests of your children. 

As family law lawyers we often see parents wondering whether or not they are doing the right thing when it comes to the care arrangements for their children post separation. Drawing from our experience we have put together a list that may help you decide what you should and should not do following separation.

The do’s:

  • Listen sympathetically to your child/ren’s feelings and opinions without judgment
  • Talk with the other parent about issues relating to your child/ren
  • Make sure your child/ren don’t hear or see you fighting
  • Keep your child/ren out of your arguments with or about the other parent
  • Be positive about the other parent when talking to your child/ren
  • Turn to other adults for emotional support rather than to your child/ren
  • Reassure your child/ren that you still love them
  • Remember that accepting and dealing with the separation will enable you to better assist your child/ren to do the same
  • Talk with your child/ren’s teachers so they understand the situation, 
  • Keep your focus on your child/ren’s well-being rather than on what is ‘fair’ for you
  • Allow your child/ren the right to love both of you don’t make them choose and
  • Tell your child/ren that they are not to blame and help them to discuss their feelings they often blame themselves, especially when parents fight about them or things they have done.

The don’ts:

  • Ignore the other parents, discount their concerns about your child/ren and their feelings and opinions
  • Use social media platforms to post, comment or criticise the other parent in a derogatory or negative manner
  • Involve your child/ren in arguments
  • Place undue emotional pressure on your child/ren
  • Make your child/ren choose the ‘best’ parent
  • Blame the other parent or your child/ren for the separation 
  • Focus on what you think is fair and not consider what is in the best interests of your child/ren
  • Use your child/ren as the messenger
  • Asking your child/ren to report on the other parent is destructive it is using a child for your own ends
  • Use the visits just to give the child/ren a good time, or outings and gifts take the place of normal parenting
  • Say things like ‘I still love him but he doesn’t love me’ ‘I want to keep the house for the kids but she wants to sell it’ this puts pressure on your children to take sides and
  • Set up competing activities, it spoils children’s pleasure in being with either parent.

There are brochures and booklets published by the Family Law Courts to help you remain child focused and concentrated on what is best for your children. 

If you find yourself doing more on the don’ts than the do’s then you may find it useful to engage in further courses focused on parenting after separation. If you would like further information you should visit

If you are not sure how best to explain your separation to your children or deal with their questions there are booklets that can help you. The website Family Relationships Online has many resources that can help you answer the most commonly asked questions in simple terms so that your children can understand. See link