Children with separated parents

Breakup of marriage and parenting relationships is a common occurrence in our society. During and following this process, children with special developmental needs have particular vulnerabilities and may require extra consideration around their care.

Conflict and breakdown of communication quite often occur during relationship breakdown, and can impact on collaboration with professional care providers.

At Coastal Developmental Paediatrics, we have established the below practice and communication guidelines to enable clear understanding in our work with families where parents have separated.

Practice Guidelines

If you identify as being separated, our admin staff will request a copy of any custody court orders and information regarding your parenting arrangements, in order to best support you and your child with appointments and communication.

We prefer to see both parents who are sharing the care and decision making for their child, however we will seek advice and permission from the parent making the appointment, as to the appropriateness of having a shared appointment, or separate appointments for each parent. If one parent books an appointment, we do not automatically offer the other parent the appointment details and the right to attend the appointment. This responsibility rests with parents to communicate details regarding appointments to each other, in the best interests of their child.

There is a fee for each appointment if separate appointments are required, and the child must attend for the parent to claim a Medicare rebate for the attendance. Skype consultations can be offered for one parent, and there is a Medicare rebate for Skype consultations, if living more than 15 km from the office.

Cooperation between parents is necessary for therapeutic interventions to be effective. Where conflict arises between parents regarding therapeutic decisions, our role is to provide an opinion, rather than require or pursue a decision.

Where specific interventions are under consideration such as the prescription of non-essential medication, our default is to not proceed unless both parents are in agreement.

Our practice focusses on assessment and management of children’s developmental needs, and does not extend to providing expert family assessment information for the purposes of Family Law Court proceedings.

Communication Guidelines

Our practice management software identifies a "default" parent for each child. Communication regarding that child, by default, is addressed to that parent.

This default applies to our automatic communications such as reminder emails (sent to the email address of the primary parent) and reminder text messages (sent to the mobile phone number of the primary parent).

Sometimes this inadvertently leads to problem situations where information is sent to the wrong person. An example would be where a parent who is not the default parent on our information system makes an appointment, but the reminder information is sent to the default parent.

This default also applies to written communication. It is our practice to routinely copy letters of communication to parents, such as medical reports back to the referring General Practitioner. We send a single copy to the parent identified as default.

In general, it is our expectation that separated parents work in a framework of joint parental responsibility. Legally, this means it is the responsibility of parents to work out how they exchange information.

We do not have the capacity to make complex individualised arrangements, but we try our best to accommodate two individual circumstances for the benefit of the child where this is reasonable and achievable.

If our communication practice is potentially a problem for you, please discuss this with our administration staff.