The end of a relationship can be an emotionally draining time, especially when children are involved.
Amid the upset and turmoil, a number of big questions need to be answered. Who will the children live with? How much time will they spend with each parent? What will be the responsibilities of each parent? And how will you negotiate other people, such as grandparents?
In almost all cases, we find that it’s best if you and your former partner can reach an agreement on how your children will be cared for. However, if you are unable to agree, you may need to consider a dispute resolution process or a court enforced parenting order.
Before you can apply to the court for a parenting order, in most cases you will need to take part in a Family Dispute Resolution Conference. This will give you and your former partner an opportunity to actively shape a solution for your family. In order for dispute resolution to be effective, both parties need to make a reasonable effort to communicate with each other and resolve the situation through counselling or mediation, with the help of an experienced Family Law solicitor.
Generally, dispute resolution is faster, cheaper and less stressful than going to court. It also improves the chances of finding a lasting resolution to your problem.
If you and your former partner are unable to resolve the issue through dispute resolution, you may need to consider applying to the court for parenting orders. Going to court is stressful, costly, and time consuming, however it can sometimes be the only way forward.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
If your matter does progress to court, your situation will be assessed based on Australia’s leading piece of family law legislation; The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (The Act). The Act covers all matters surrounding the custody of children in Australia, and it’s based on two major concepts; parental responsibility and the best interests of the child. If you do go to court, it’s worth taking some time to think about how these issues may affect your case.
Parental responsibility is a key issue in Australian family law. In Australia, both parents are legally responsible for their child/ren until they turn 18 years of age. This is the case even if you or your former partner choose to remarry or start a new family.
When the court considers parental responsibility, it takes into consideration your ability to make decisions that affect the day to day care, and ongoing welfare of your child.
Best interests of the child
The Family Law Act 1975 is designed to protect the ‘best interests of the child’. This means that a court ruling is likely to prioritise what is best for your child/ren over what is most convenient for you or your former partner. If you are about to go through this process, it’s important to understand that the Family Law Act 1975 does not focus of ‘parental rights’, but rather, ‘parental responsibility’.
At Conditsis Lawyers our sympathetic and experienced team of family law specialists understand the emotional and financial impact law proceedings can have on you and your family.