A recent study looked at how families balance time and money It shows we juggle intense workloads and family commitments. As a result many parents look for flexible working hours. It seems that fathers are less comfortable requesting flexible working: it is not just a question of the work culture, and attitude of managers.
The demands of family life are increased if you are separating. Arrangements that were flexible have to be crystallized and defined, at a time when you might also be trying to negotiate finances. One parent might find the other to be unsupportive if they never seem able to leave work if a child is ill, or to support the child in all those ways required through schooling and beyond. It’s hard enough to discuss these matters in the relationship, to make positive changes, but even harder when you are separating. Difficulties are magnified and the need for organization and time management is so much greater. If one parent has more difficulty in trying to arrange flexible working, this can generate conflict.
If you are discussing these things, consider a shared on-line calendar for all term dates, and anything else that is likely to come up during the school year. Of course you can’t predict things like having to produce a fancy dress outfit for tomorrow’s assembly, or ferry a 6th Former to a forgotten university interview. Also, aim to have meetings about the children that are not combined with discussions about splitting the finances. Consider having a consultation with a family lawyer to ensure you are on solid ground with your proposals, especially if they are likely to be met unfavorably or are contentious. Mediation can assist in reaching more tailor-made arrangements for children and it is a forum where a parent can explain, for example, why they find it so difficult to be flexible. New practical solutions could perhaps be generated, such as having an agreed bank of other parents’ to call on, or paid support if needed at short notice, as an alternative. Trying to encourage a person to change when you are together is hard enough, but trying to do it when you are separating is not likely to be a good solution.
There are useful guides available from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, including the Separated Parenting Information Programme
If agreement cannot be reached, you can involve the court. This is stressful but will result in a defined clear outcome. If you are able to negotiate arrangements for children obviously it is much better. Court orders are not often as fine-tuned as parents themselves can manage if you can reach agreement. However, looking at the statistics from the Family Index illustrates the level of strain that families are often under and with that in mind it is not surprising that it can be exceptionally difficult to reach agreements for new arrangements for children when there are added stresses.
Specialist Family Lawyer and Mediator
 Working Families and Bright Horizons: 2018 Modern Families Index