Q&A with Jane Dodding: my FIFO ex-husband and I can't agree on a parenting plan

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By psychologist Jane Dodding

Q: Hello, I am seeking advice on our parenting plan as my FIFO ex-husband and I are unable to agree. He is away every other month. When he is at work I have my son full time. When he is home we revert to a week on, week off split. He is now requesting the entire month with our child and I do not agree this to be in his best interest. I have been the primary carer for all of our son's life as he has had this job for the entire time. My ex is unable to see how this can be distressing for our son to be away from me for such a long time and feels I am being unreasonable. I would really appreciate and love some advice. Thanks.

A: Thanks for getting in touch. Your question is a difficult one which many parents grapple with when trying to co-parent once separated.

Angie Willcocks has written a great column on this, noting there is really no definitive, or one size fits all answer. Check it out here.

There are many individual factors that need to be taken into consideration, for example, your son's temperament, how adaptive he is, how well he is coping with the current arrangement etc.

What I do suppose there is agreement on though is that any arrangement should be child focused – any decisions should be based on what is best for your son. The best gift any child can have is the opportunity to love and have a relationship with both parents.

Agreeing on what is best for your son, whilst ensuring he has a strong healthy relationship with both parents, can be difficult with differing opinions, which is why mediation may be helpful. It would be very beneficial to your son if both of you could establish an amicable co-parenting relationship.

From my experience working with people in a similar situation, often both parents are offered some training in child-focussed co-parenting prior to mediation which can be helpful to get both parties working towards the same goal. For more information, click here

I hope this is helpful and I wish you all the very best.

To read other columns written by our psychologists, please click here

All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Jane Dodding is a psychologist and director with MindsPlus, a group of psychologists and other mental health workers who came together in 2007 to provide support to people living and working in rural and remote regions of Australia. For further information about MindsPlus, contact 1300 312 202 or visit www.mindsplus.com.au