What happens to children in the event of separation?
There is probably nothing more important to us than our children and what happens to children in the event of separation is something that causes parents enormous concern and heartache. Such times are also very difficult for children. At Springwood Lawyers we know this and we endeavour to assist parents to resolve their parenting disputes in a child focused manner.
The family law speaks about the rights of the children and in particular, their right to have a significant and ongoing relationship with both parents unless this is contrary to their interest. When it comes to children, parents have responsibilities rather than rights. It will usually be the case that parents will have equal shared parental responsibility for their children following separation. There is a misconception in some parts of our community however, that "equal shared parental responsibility" equates to equal time. This is not the case. There is a connection however between "equal shared parental responsibility" and how much time parents spend with the children.
Parenting plan or Court Order
There is no requirement for separating parents to formalise arrangements regarding their children. Parents can however formalise arrangements by way of a Parenting Plan or a Family Law Order. Both are important legal documents, but there is a difference and you should speak with us as to which will best suit your needs and circumstances.
Family dispute resolution
Thankfully the days of "charging straight into court to fight over the children" are a thing of the past. This does not mean that parents no longer have disputes over parenting arrangements however it does not mean that the court no longer has a role to assist in sorting out such disputes. The appropriate place to start however, is for parents to talk to one another and attempt to reach an agreement in relation to parenting matters. A process has been developed whereby parents can attend a Mediation (called Family Dispute Resolution) where, with the assistance of a mediator, they may well be able to resolve their dispute and to agree on parenting arrangements for their children. Such agreement can then be formalised by a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order.
There are two main providers of Family Dispute Resolution; one being the government’s free services and the other being the service provided by private Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners. There is a role for both providers and there are pros and cons with respect to each. The government services are free but can take a long time and this becomes a problem if one of the parents is less inclined to sort the dispute out or has a vested interest in delaying the resolution of the dispute. Private Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners, for a cost, allows for a more speedy resolution of the dispute and if the dispute cannot be sorted out, facilitate the issuing of a certificate to allow for the matter to proceed to court for a judicial decision without undue delay. Also, the government free services mostly do not allow for parties to be supported by their solicitors at the mediation, whereas private Family Dispute Resolution Providers mostly will allow a party to be supported and advised at the Mediation by their family law solicitor. Family Relationship Centres mostly do not allow a parties solicitor to attend and support their client at the mediation.
Such support by an experienced family law solicitor at Mediations can be very important, especially when there is a power imbalance. The assistance of solicitors also helps the parties to achieve clear and workable parenting arrangements, which they can rely upon in the future.
If parties are unable to resolve their parenting dispute at Mediation then it is likely that their matter will progress to court. Most family law parenting disputes are dealt with in the Federal Magistrates Circuit Court and it is usually only the more difficult cases that are dealt with by the Family Court.
We can help
At Springwood Lawyers we know what these matters involve and we can assist you in a skillful and thoughtful manner. Most of the time these disputes do not require a stressful and costly court battle and can be settled by negotiations or attendance at a Mediation. Whatever it takes, Springwood Lawyers can assist you in this regard.