Counselling and Mediation
The best interests of the children is the paramount consideration when determining the most appropriate and suitable arrangements for the children after a separation. At Edwards Family Lawyers, we encourage our clients to participate in the counselling or mediation services available to assist them to reach an agreement with their spouse/former partner about suitable parenting arrangements for their children, and to minimise the effect of the separation on the children. You can find details of counselling services on our webpage entitled Links.
Family Dispute Resolution
The Family Law Act requires that separated couples engage in Family Dispute Resolution as a prerequisite to making an application to the Court for parenting orders (except in certain limited or urgent circumstances). Prior to filing an application with the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court seeking parenting orders, the Court will require you to obtain a Certificate from a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner certifying your attendance (or non-attendance) at the Family Dispute Resolution session.
In the absence of any orders or agreement to the contrary, after a separation, both parents retain equal shared parental responsibility and must consult each other when making decisions regarding major long term issues, such as education, health and religion which may affect their children.
Equal shared parental responsibility must not be confused with equal time, or what is often referred to as “50/50” arrangements.
If you cannot agree on the parenting arrangements for your children, the Court can make orders regarding the following matters:
- The time a child is to spend with each parent
- Whether one or both parents are to be responsible for the day-to-day decisions for a child
- Whether one or both parents are to be responsible for decisions regarding the long term issues concerning a child
- where a child will go to school
- mechanisms for the parents to consult each other before taking a child to a doctor or undergo medical procedures
- whether a child can travel overseas or interstate
In making Parenting Orders, the paramount consideration for the Court will always be ” the best interests of the child”.
Generally speaking, the Court will consider the following objectives in determining the most suitable orders:
- The need to protect a child from violence
- The right of a child to know and be cared for by both parents
- The right of a child to spend time and communicate with both parents
- The desirability of both parents sharing the duties and responsibilities concerning a child
If the parenting dispute is about how much time a child is to spend with each parent, the Court must consider whether an equal shared (or “50/50”) arrangement is in the best interests of the child. If it is not, then the Court must consider whether it is best for the child to live with one parent, and spend substantial and significant time with the other “non-resident” parent (previously called the “non-custodial” parent). This may include the child spending time with the non-resident parent on weekends, or a combination of weekends and some weekdays, and on holidays and other special occasions, so that a meaningful relationship may be maintained by that parent having involvement in the child’s day to day routine, as well as during special occasions.
At Edwards Family Lawyers, our experienced Family Lawyers will advise as to the most suitable parenting arrangements for your children, and will provide advice as to the possible range of orders that could be made by the Court depending on the circumstances of the family.
Contact us for more information concerning these issues.