"What’s this conversation here?" If you grew up in the 1970s/80s like me, life would not have been complete without a quotation from Monty Python.

My favourite sketch (no, not the dead parrot) is the one about the menu of conversation – the middle-aged, bad-accented American couple deciding what they should talk about over dinner. Practising in family law over the past 30 years, I often wonder if a couple about to separate would benefit from this menu. Rather than talk about the Super Bowl or philosophy, they could do no better than talk about their children.

Parenting is tough at the best of times but add in a relationship breakdown, and all rationale can go out the window. Shared parenting after divorce is the new normal. No more Saturday afternoon Dad time at the park. Fathers are working flexibly to be full-on parents sharing the care of their children, often full time or maybe on alternate weeks if employers will allow it. When the geography permits, and parents work well together around arrangements, this can be of enormous benefit to children following divorce or separation.

Before things become too difficult, what better than a conversation about the CAFCASS Parenting Plan? The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has produced such a document for parents to discuss, which is available on their web site. It prompts all manner of issues that parents may well fall out about in the future, ranging from third parties babysitting to new partners and pocket money – all the things you would discuss if you stayed together but when trust is breaking down you need to be a bit more formal about. Rather than descending into litigation in the years to come, why not confront these topics ahead of time and head them off in advance? If it’s too hard to do this around the kitchen table, mediation or child-focussed lawyers can help.

Sometimes talking together is impossible – at least for a while when emotions are raw, and a bit of distance could be helpful. But what about the children? To the rescue comes OurFamilyWizard.

OurFamilyWizard apps help parents maintain an amicable path forward post-separation. Tools on OurFamilyWizard let parents manage child arrangements, send secure messages, share files and more. Legal and mental health practitioners may even review activity to help resolve conflicts if necessary.

Jaw – jaw is definitely preferable to war – war, according to Churchill, and we have seen the benefits of communication in advance of and during the court process.

Liz Wyatt, Partner Anthony Collins Solicitors and Sara Kemp, OurFamilyWizard.

First published on 20 February 2020 in the Birmingham Post Family and Divorce Law supplement.