Hopefully if a couple have negotiated successfully during Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), they would have reached agreement on how their children will be cared for now the parents are living separately.
As long as there has been no instances of family violence or child abuse, then it is usual for each parent to have equal shared responsibility even though the children may not be spending equal time with each parent.
The amount of time a child spends with each parent, depends to a large extent on the child's age and parental circumstances.
"In Australia, the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006, together with other aspects of family law reform - most notably recent child support reform, have ushered in an era wherein a child's experience of care by his/her parents post-separation has become sharply defined by the amount of overnight time spent with each parent (McIntosh & Chisholm, 2008; Smyth, 2009). The Act now stipulates that in courts with family law jurisdiction in Australia, in dealing with cases where the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility is not rebutted, judicial officers "must consider" the merits of making orders that the child spend "equal time" - or, if not equal, then "substantial and significant time" - with each parent. In addition, all "advisors" in the family law system (dispute resolution and legal practitioners, and family consultants) also have an obligation to inform parents that, in developing a parenting plan, they could consider that the child spend equal or substantial and significant time with each parent if reasonably practicable and in the best interests of the child."
Reference and more information: Post-separation parenting arrangements: Patterns and developmental outcomes. Studies of two risk groups by Jennifer McIntosh, Bruce Smyth, Margaret Kelaher, Yvonne Wells and Caroline Long.
Family Matters No. 86, 2011, AIFS Journal
Children of all ages, including adult children of separated parents suffer. If there is high conflict during relationship break-down, separation and post separation, children suffer.
Parents can limit this suffering by seeking help to learn how to handle conflict in a healthy, less damaging way. Parents must also refrain from putting each other down in front of their children and blaming the other parent for the separation.
This does nothing but harm to a child and sometimes may even lead to a child wanting to avoid the blaming parent.
Children may benefit from counselling to help them cope with their parent's separation. A counsellor will help a child develop better coping skills as well as support the grieving process.
A Position Statement prepared for the Australian Psychological Society by Jennifer McIntosh, Susie Burke, Nicole Dour, and Heather Gridley, July 2009.Christine Bennett offers Family Dispute Resolution and Relationship Counselling in Crows Nest, Central Coast NSW and online.