We realise that few, if any things in life are more important to you than your children. We also know that after separation parents are often vulnerable, emotionally traumatised and are concerned for the future.
Child Support & Care Arrangements
Separation and divorce can be a confusing and traumatic time for both parents and children, especially if the children see their parents struggle to resolve issues about where the children should live and how much time they should spend with each parent.
How Balmoral Legal Can Help
We provide you with prompt and professional initial advice about your rights and obligations as a parent. We don’t promise that you’ll like the advice or that we’ll tell you what you want to hear. We take our professional obligation to “tell it like it is” and to be frank and honest very seriously.
We will present your case at Court to the best of our ability, using all of the resources available. However, very few clients, if any, enjoy litigation or achieve all of their initial objectives through litigation.
Litigation at Balmoral Legal is treated for what it is: a last recourse when further negotiation is futile.
The ‘Best Interests’ of Children
The ‘best interests’ of children is widely known but rarely understood. In law, the phrase has a very specific and complex meaning. Recent changes in Commonwealth law have resulted in very substantive changes in the rights and obligations of parents particularly in relation to:
- Who has responsibility for the big decisions in your children’s lives – for example such issues as where your children attend school; who decides on medical care; what religion or faith, if any, your children are raised in and whether your children may travel or relocate interstate or overseas;
- Whether children live with one or both parents; and
- The time children spend with significant people in their lives such as grandparents and cousins.
If you agree on children’s issues, do you need to do anything else?
Parenting and Consent Orders
Despite the emotional trauma of separation, many parents are able to agree on the future care and welfare of their children. Such fortunate parents deserve congratulations for their ability to put the interests of their children ahead of the hurt and emotional trauma that often follows separation.
We understand that many people, quite reasonably, are reluctant to engage in the legal process, particularly when they have successfully reached agreement. The legal process can be very expensive in both financial and emotional terms so it’s important to be cautious in your approach. In considering whether you need to do anything else you may wish to consider the following:
- Is your agreement verbal or in writing?
- Is your agreement binding in law?
- If your former partner breaches the agreement, what happens?
- Will communication between you and your former partner always be as good as it is now? What happens if you or your former partner marries or has a child with someone else?
- Will you be able to agree on future schools, medical treatment and holidays (Christmas, School holidays) interstate and overseas travel?
These issues are mentioned only as a caution. While many separating couples start out with the best intentions and goodwill, over the 18 years of your child’s life (and yours) many things can change. Ultimately, only you can assess if you and your partner will be likely to reach agreement in the future, without a formal binding and enforceable agreement.
Consent Orders and Parenting Plans
The good news is that at relatively low cost (particularly relative to the cost of litigation) and quite quickly, we can formalise the agreement between you and your former partner so that it is binding and enforceable in law.
Unlike Consent Orders, Parenting Plans cannot be enforced by the Family Court. However, the hard work and goodwill parents often spend formulating a Parenting Plan can easily be filed as a binding and enforceable Consent Order.
And, even better, your Consent Orders can be filed and pronounced final at the Family Court without you ever having to attend the Court.
Family Dispute Resolution
Sadly, in many cases, despite the goodwill and best intentions of one or both parents, agreement cannot be reached about the future care and welfare of children. This does not mean you inevitably end up in the Family Court. You and your partner may first be required to attend mediation with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP).
Sometimes, despite the best efforts of both parents (or because of the inaction or lack of co-operation of one parent) the only option is to file an application at the Family Court.
The Family Court will make Orders concerning your child/children on such matters as:
- Who has parental responsibility
- Where children go to school
- Medical issues
- Who the children live with
- The time the children spend with each parent
- Whether parents are permitted to relocate children interstate or overseas
Just because you file an application at the Court, it does not automatically follow that you end up at trial. It’s important to remember that:
- Only a relatively small percentage of matters proceed to trial
- The Family Court is focused on encouraging parents to mediate and settle matters informally
- The time from filing an application for final parenting orders to a decision after trial is likely to be a matter of years rather than months
- Trials are very expensive in terms of emotional and financial cost