Parenting apart from birth - how to make it work

Becoming a new parent is an emotional, physical and practical rollercoaster. But what happens when new parents separate before or shortly after the birth? Life as a new parent is challenging enough when there are two of you to share the load together, let alone when there are other issues added into the mix or you are flying solo.

What to think about

Here are some tips to help new parents who have separated:

  • Make time for a sensible conversation about how you see things working after baby is born.
  • Be sensible. This isn’t about getting one over on each other if you are still sore about your break-up. It’s about ensuring your baby has the opportunity to grow up having the best possible relationship with each parent.
  • Keep your baby’s needs as your focus.
  • Keep adult issues separate. If these issues are still affecting you, get help to work through them before baby arrives, if possible.
  • Think about what works best for baby depending on their age, in terms of time, location and frequency.
  • Think about whether short, daily visits would work better and at what time of day. Be prepared for this to change as baby’s routine changes in the first few months.
  • Be realistic. If your baby is being breastfed, naturally they will need to be nearer their main food source. However, that isn’t a reason for one-on-one time with the other parent not to happen. Try and plan how this will work and when and how you will get baby used to a bottle.
  • How are you going to communicate with each other about baby’s development? There will be so many milestones in the first few months that you will both want to be involved in as parents and it’s important for your child that you both parents are involved in these events if they want to be.
  • If communication between you isn’t easy, consider having someone help you to talk to each other, such as a mutual friend or sensible, level-headed family member.
  • Be mindful that children pick up on tension between adults and can be negatively affected, not only by physical abuse, but also arguments and raised voices. Evidence shows that this can also have a severe impact on babies, not just older children. Make sure that any discussions take place without your baby present, if possible, and think about how you communicate with each other in front of your child.

If you can’t sort things out yourselves, there are plenty of options that don’t involve the court, such as mediation, that can help.

Remember, arrangements for your children will inevitably change as they grow and their needs change. Keep things under review and have an honest conversation with each other as parents if circumstances change.

Things may be more complex if you are an international family – perhaps you are living abroad and one of you wants to return to your home country, or you want to move elsewhere after the birth. Cases involving more than one country can be more complex and it is important to seek early legal advice if you find yourself in this situation.

If you would like to discuss your options, please do get in touch with Sarah Green.

This article is for general information only and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you have any questions relating to your particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.