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Family Matters Parenting Agreement For Scotland - Guide

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INTRODUCTION

This Parenting Agreement for Scotland has been designed for parents who are separating.

The aim is to help separating parents to agree on future arrangements for their children. If you have separated from your child's other parent, or have agreed to do so, you may find this helpful.

The Parenting Agreement for Scotland is not a legal contract and it isn't intended to be enforced by a court. In fact, it is intended to help separated parents stay out of court by encouraging them to make practical and workable arrangements for their children by themselves.

The break-up of a relationship is one of the most stressful times in anyone's life. But for the children of these relationships, experiencing their parents' separation can be especially difficult. Children can be badly affected by the separation of their parents in terms of their emotional development, their achievement at school and in other areas. But problems can be minimised when the break-up is sensitively managed by both parents working together to agree on what is best for their children's future.

Naturally, as parents who have separated or who have agreed to separate, you will want to protect your children from unnecessary upset and you will want to take all available steps to help your children cope with this major change in their lives. The Parenting Agreement for Scotland is intended to help you do this.

" I hate it when Mum and Dad argue about me. They think I can't hear them but I do. "

USING THE PARENTING AGREEMENT

The Parenting Agreement for Scotland comes in two parts and it is simple to use. This part is the 'Guide'. The Guide is intended to encourage separating parents to focus on some of the important areas of their children's lives which they will want to make plans for.

For example, you and your former partner may need to reconsider your children's living arrangements, their schooling, holidays, healthcare and so on. Having come to an agreement about these matters, you might then want to write down what you've decided in the 'Plan' document which forms the second part of the Parenting Agreement pack.

The Parenting Agreement is intended to be used by people in different family situations. Not all children are cared for by their two biological parents. For example, children who are in a step-family which is breaking up may attach as much importance to maintaining their relationship with the step-parent as they would in relation to their natural parent. The Parenting Agreement is intended to be able to be used by all.

All families are different and the arrangements which you will make for your children may not be exactly the same as those agreed by other parents. So use as much or as little of this document as you both feel is helpful. You can fill in some, all, or none of the Plan document. You might want to leave out some sections if they are not relevant to you or perhaps if you and your former partner can't come to an agreement yet. Equally, you may want to add in some additional arrangements which you both feel are important. You may not even want to write anything down and instead just use the Parenting Agreement as a starting point for discussion.

" I know he's not my real Dad but he is my Dad. My real Dad left my Mum when I was a baby and I've never even met him. My Dad has always been there for me and I love him. "

AGREEMENT MUST BE MUTUAL

The important thing is to remember that arrangements which parents can agree amicably together are much more likely to work in the long-term for you as parents and, most importantly, for your children. But agreement must genuinely be mutual. If one parent feels that they have been pressured into consenting to any arrangement then it simply won't work, either for you as parents or for your children. Compromise may be necessary.

If you can't agree on something now, it may be best to wait until some time has passed and tensions have eased and then see if you can bring up the matter again. It probably won't help if one of you keeps trying to push the other into accepting an arrangement which they're not comfortable with, but neither should you agree to something you're not comfortable with just to satisfy the other parent.

Whatever agreement you both come to, it's important that you always keep up regular contact with your children, even if you and your former partner haven't finalised arrangements yet. Your children need you.

It's also worth bearing in mind that if you have difficulty communicating with your former partner there are sources of help, such as Relationship Counselling and Mediation services. Details of organisations who offer these services are included in the Further Advice & Information section of the pack. Some of these organisations may assist you in working through the Parenting Agreement pack with your former partner.

YOUR CHILDREN'S VIEWS

While the Parenting Agreement for Scotland is intended for use by parents, depending on the age and maturity of your children, you mustn't forget to take account of their views as well. The arrangements your family puts in place for the future care and welfare of the children are more likely to succeed if everyone is involved in making key decisions.

YOUR CHILDREN'S SAFETY - AND YOURS

In some cases, a parent might be concerned about the safety of their children left alone in the care of the other parent - or perhaps even about their own safety. Naturally, if you have any fears of this kind, you should consider taking appropriate action to protect your children and yourself from harm. In such cases, it may not be appropriate for you to complete a Parenting Agreement of this kind.

If you do have concerns about domestic abuse, in the first instance you may wish to contact your solicitor, your local Social Work Department, or one of the support bodies whose details are included in the Parenting Agreement folder.