Are you separated or divorced and trying to reach agreement with your former partner regarding what is going to happen with the children (often called parenting or children’s issues)?
Do you need advice about who the children should live with (formerly called “custody”) and what time the children should spend with either parent (formerly called “access” or sometimes referred to as “child visitation”)?
The breakdown of a relationship is emotionally difficult, more so when children are involved. If you find yourself in this situation, you really need to speak to one of our child custody lawyers.
Best interests of the children are paramount
Determining what is or is not in the best interests of children can sometimes be extremely hard to work out when one’s own emotional needs and wants are involved.
What are children’s issues exactly?
Parenting or children’s issues usually involve:
- Where the children are to live;
- How much time they will spend with each parent; and
- How the parents will make the important decisions that relate to the children’s care and welfare after separation.
What if you agree?
You may be able to reach an agreement with the other parent and not have to go to Court. In these situations, it is wise to speak to a child custody lawyer in our firm and have the agreement formalised. This can be achieved either by way of an Application for Consent Orders filed in the Family Court which has the same legally binding effect as orders made by a Judge of the Court.
The advantage of formalising the agreement in that you have the benefit of a Court Orders without the emotional stress and cost associated with Court proceedings.
Alternatively, you can formalise your agreement by way of a Parenting Plan (also known as a Parenting Agreement).
Parenting Agreement versus Consent Orders
The advantage of a Parenting Plan is that you do not need to go to Court to make one. It simply needs to be in writing and signed by each party, although we certainly recommend speaking to one of our child custody lawyers for advice to make sure the terms are clear and effective. However, Parenting Plans are not legally binding. This means they cannot be enforced by a Court if one parent breaches any of the arrangements set out in the Plan.
On the other hand, a Consent Order, if breached, can be subject of an application for contravention in which the Court may be asked to make a number of orders, including suspension of time with the children, or make up time with the children, monetary penalties against the party in default, or even imprisonment in extreme cases. We strongly urge you to seek the advice of our child custody lawyers in this area.
Although they are not legally binding, Parenting Plans will nevertheless be taken into account by a Court when making any future determinations concerning the children so they are still very important.
Before considering a Consent Order or Parenting Plan, even if it is agreed in principle, we encourage you to seek our advice so that your legal rights, and those of your children, are protected.
What if you don’t agree?
You may, on the other hand, not be able to come to an agreement with the other parent concerning the important decisions relating to your children. When this occurs, the Courts may be required to make those decisions for you in the form of parenting orders based on what the Courts consider to be in the best interests of the children.
Applications for parenting orders are made to the Family Court of Australia (if the issues are complex) or, more commonly, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
Before making an application, the parties must undertake counselling with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and provide evidence of this with a certificate from that practitioner. In exceptional or urgent circumstances, this requirement may be waived. Please talk to us and we can advise you if your circumstances warrant such a waiver.
The purpose of family dispute resolution is to ensure that parents have made a genuine attempt to resolve their dispute before seeking the intervention of the Court.
Why seek legal advice from us
Children’s issues in the family law courts is the most heart-wrenching and emotionally draining area of law for the individuals involved.
It is sometimes very difficult for separated parents to think clearly and make good decisions when faced with the possibility that they may not be with or see their children as much as they would like.
It is critical that you receive the advice of a child custody lawyer in our firm if you feel that an arrangement may not necessarily be in the best interests of the children, particularly if you consider that your children’s best interests will be better served by living with you, or spending more time with you, or for any other reason.
We assure you our child custody lawyers are:
How our team of child custody lawyers can help
The Family Law Courts should only be accessed as a last resort. Each one of our child custody lawyers has many years’ experience in the family court system, which operates quite differently to other parts of the legal system.
Our first aim is to keep families out of the family courts if possible, by giving level-headed advice and representation that is not designed to create or encourage ongoing conflict.
If Court proceedings are required, then you will quickly realise that our child custody lawyers have the necessary skills and knowledge to ensure you and your children’s rights are fully protected and championed in the Court room.
Worried about your situation or that of your children? Stop worrying for the moment and get on the phone to one of our child custody lawyers today.
The first telephone consultation is free and without obligation. Call us now on 8237 0559.