By Karen Cho, Lawyer, Owen Hodge Lawyers
As anyone who has been through separation and divorce will tell you, navigating child custody issues can be very daunting. However, child custody arrangements, when handled well, can give children a sense of security and stability that may have been missing in the months or weeks prior to your separation, and give you peace of mind that there is a plan in place.
Every situation is different, but understanding three very basic things may assist your family to achieve the best outcome possible.
Firstly, the best interests of the children is the paramount consideration. Secondly, you and your ex will generally need to participate in a parenting mediation before filing an application with the Court for parenting orders, and thirdly litigation should be regarded as a last resort.
Family law protects children’s rights first
The child custody provisions of the Family Law Act have two guiding principles:
- The best interests of the child are the paramount consideration; and
- Each child has the right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents provided that in doing so they are safe from physical and/or psychological harm.
There are numerous factors taken into account in developing the best parenting arrangement for your children which will include consideration of their age and developmental stage. Parents also need have regard to their respective abilities, resources and schedules, and all of these factors may change over time.
Mediating parenting arrangements
Except in cases involving family violence, child abuse or in matters of urgency, the court requires parents to try to resolve child custody issues through mediation with an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner before applying to the court for orders.
It may take several mediation sessions to resolve significant issues, but if you are well prepared, this can be time very well spent.
5 quick tips for successful mediation:
- Get legal advice first.
- Make a list of the things you believe are important for your children’s happiness and welfare and rank them from most important to least important.
- Come prepared with a written proposal that describes child custody arrangements and a schedule. Expect that changes may need to be made to that proposal during the course of the mediation; it’s just easier to have a starting point written down.
- Begin with an open mind.
- Agree on what you can and list remaining issues to be taken up in subsequent mediation sessions or resolved in Court.
Seeking a parenting order
Where mediation fails to resolve some or all child custody issues, either parent may apply to the Court for interim or final parenting orders. Interim orders may be necessary in urgent situations, for example, when one parent refuses to let the other parent see the children.
If the matter is not urgent it will progress through the court system, which includes various steps depending upon the circumstances of each case. The vast majority of cases resolve prior to a final hearing when a judge will be required to make a final decision.
For more information visit the Owen Hodge Lawyers website www.owenhodge.com.au
About Karen Cho
With nearly a decade of experience in the legal profession, Karen’s main areas of interest include wills and probate matters, conveyancing, criminal law, debt recovery, civil litigation and commercial transactions. For every client Karen strives to reach positive outcomes and she does this by offering attentive, time-effective and friendly service.