Separation in families with children gives rise to questions about who a child should live with, how much time they spend with each parent, and other important considerations concerning their well-being.
Often persons who are not the parents of children but are concerned with their care, welfare and development also have rights and responsibilities in relation to them.
Whatever your circumstances, we can assist you to reach agreement about parenting arrangements, and help to formalise those arrangements through consent orders or a parenting plan. We can also provide referrals for effective family counselling or participate with you in dispute resolution. Frequently, agreement with respect to parenting matters can be achieved without ever having to attend family law court.
If agreement can’t be reached, we can provide child-focused advice and representation for disputes about parental responsibility.
Children have the right to have a meaningful relationship with each of their parents and other important people in the absence of very good reasons to the contrary, and all children’s issues are determined on the basis that the child’s best interests is the paramount consideration.
Your Child’s Rights
As a parent or carer of a child we understand that you’ll know them better than anyone, and our goal is to help you avoid Court to come to an agreement about their care. At the same time, when people can’t agree on arrangements concerning their children, it’s helpful to understand the legal position and the considerations which might affect how a Court might determine your matter.
The objects of the Family Law Act 1975 are to ensure children get adequate and proper care from their parents and others to help them reach their full potential; and to make sure parents fulfill their duties and meet their responsibilities for the care, welfare and development of their children.
Children have the right to know and be cared for by both parents irrespective of whether their parents are married, de facto, separated or were never in a relationship. Children also have a right to spend time on a regular basis with both of their parents, to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, and to know other people significant to their care – such as grandparents and other relatives.
In the absence of compelling reasons to the contrary each parent of a child has responsibility for them.
Our legislation creates a presumption that a child’s best interests are promoted by each parent exercising their responsibilities, and being equally involved in the child’s life. Considerations which may displace this presumption include the need to protect the child from harm, and to avoid the child being exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
In the absence of factors such as these, a Court will ordinarily make Orders which provide for parties to exercise equal parental responsibility for a child. In those cases, the Court is then required to consider whether a parent spending equal, or substantial and significant time with a child is in the child’s best interests.
The Court considers a range of factors when determining what is in a child’s best interests, and each case will vary based on your own set of circumstances. Sayer Jones can assist you in ensuring proper arrangements are in place for your child.
Am I Guaranteed Equal Time?
Amendments to the Family Law Act have created some confusion as to whether separated parents have the automatic right to equal time with their children. As indicated above, whilst there is a presumption that each parent should exercise parental responsibility, this doesn’t necessarily mean that each parent will get to spend equal time with their child or children.
Whether you are a primary carer of your children, or a parent seeking to be actively involved in your child’s life, we can assist you in coming to appropriate arrangements. This includes arrangements which enable you to make decisions on major long term issues such as education, religion and health whilst ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure the child can have a meaningful relationship with each parent.
We also specialise in complex children’s cases, and take very seriously our role in providing objective and child-focused advice to parents in high conflict separations, or in circumstances involving family violence or risk to children.
How do I Obtain Parenting Orders or a Parenting Plan
Resolving parenting issues can be challenging. We’ll work with you to resolve arrangements which take into account your own circumstances.
In the event that you and your former partner are able to agree about arrangements with your children, then a Parenting Plan or Parenting Orders can be obtained by consent which formalise the exercise of parental responsibility, who the child will live with (previously known as child custody) and who the child will spend time and communicate with (previously known as access or contact).
What If We Can’t Agree On Parenting Arrangements?
In the event that you and the other parent of the child are unable to agree about the arrangements for parental responsibility and the care of the child, we will assist you by making an appropriate application to the Court.
Save for circumstances involving risk or urgency, both parties are required to attend family counselling in an attempt to resolve the issues concerning the care of your child before an application can be lodged with the Court. We recommend exploring alternative dispute resolution as a means to minimise conflict and to come to an early resolution of children’s issues, and we can provide referrals to appropriate counsellors to streamline and expedite early negotiations.
Before an application can be lodged with the Court, it is necessary to obtain a certificate confirming that you have attempted or attended family counselling. An exemption from this requirement may be obtained in some circumstances.
We can assist you through this process, and ensure that if such dispute resolution is not successful that you are able to obtain appropriate Orders from the Court which reflect your child’s best interests.
If you have questions concerning your children, contact us to arrange an appointment.