Separation is a time of great emotional stress particularly where there are children involved. It is common when parents separate that they find themselves in a position where they cannot agree on what the future arrangements will be for the children.
Negotiations regarding parenting matters can occur in a number of ways including:
- Traditional negotiation by letter writing;
- Mediation; and
- Informal meetings.
Any agreement parents reach about future arrangements for the children can be formalised by way of a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders. We will advise you on which document will be best for your specific situation.
If you are unable to reach an agreement about the future arrangements for the children a Court Application may be necessary. Before a parenting application is made to the Court it is necessary for the parents to participate in Mediation to attempt to resolve the matter except in certain very limited situations where mediation is not appropriate due to urgency, risk of harm to the children or if there has been a history of family violence.
Judges have a wide discretion in Family Law matters. In parenting matters the focus of the Court is on arrangements that are in the best interests of the children. In determining what is in the children’s best interests the primary considerations of the Court will be the benefit of the children having a meaningful relationship with both parents and the need to protect the children from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence. Where there is conflict between the Court’s primary considerations greater weight is given to the protection of the children from harm.
The Court can take into consideration any fact or circumstance that the Court thinks is relevant to the parenting matter. The Court is also guided by a list of additional considerations within the Family Law Act. The list of considerations includes but is not limited to:
- Any views expressed by the children and any factors (such as the children’s maturity or levels of understanding) that the Court thinks are relevant to the weight that should be given to the children’s views;
- The nature of the children’s relationship with their parents and other persons (including relatives);
- The extent to which each parent has taken or failed to take the opportunity to participate in making long term decisions, spending time with the children, communicating with the children and fulfilment of their obligations to maintain the children;
- The likely effect on the children of any changes in arrangements including separation from a parent or another person or relative;
- The practical difficulty or expense of children spending time with a parent;
- The capacity of each of the parents or any other person to provide for the children’s needs including emotional and intellectual needs;
- The maturity, sex, lifestyle and background of the children and either parent;
- Any history of family violence;
- If the children are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children the right to enjoy that culture and any impact on that right; and
- The attitude of the parents to the children and the responsibilities of parenthood.
Parenting applications can also be made to the Court by people who are not parents of the children involved but are important people in their lives including grandparents, step-parents and non-biological parents.
Our Family Law Solicitors are on the Legal Aid panel of solicitors and are able to accept matters funded by Legal Aid.
As parents and step-parents themselves, our Family Law Solicitors have a passion for putting in place arrangements for children that are in their best interests. We have extensive experience in parenting matters and are here to help you through this difficult time.
If you would like to meet with our Family Law Solicitors simply call our office to arrange a FREE one hour consultation.