Children

childrenWhen separating from your partner many decisions need to be made in relation to your children. In Australia, the Family Law Act gives guidance toward the many issues that can be related to parenting.

The Family Law Act provides the process to ensure that the best interests of your children are met including:

  • ensuring that children have the benefit of both parents having a meaningful relationships in their lives, to the extent consistent with the best interests of the children;
  • protecting children from physical or psychological harm such as being subjected, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence;
  • ensuring that children receive adequate and appropriate parenting to help them achieve their full potential; and
  • ensuring that parents fulfill their duties and meet their responsibilities, concerning the care, welfare and development of their children.

The principles underlying these objects are that (except where it would be contrary to a child’s best interests):

  • a child has a right to know and to be cared for by both their parents;
  • a child has a right to spend time and communicate with both parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and other relatives) on a regular basis;
  • parents jointly share duties and responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their child;
  • parents should agree about the major long term issues of their child, including education, religion and health; and
  • a child has a right to enjoy their heritage and culture.

Initially in parenting matters is it important to determine whether equal shared parental responsibility is appropriate for your situation. When determining this, the court will apply a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the parent’s to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child. However, the presumption will not apply if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent of the child (or a person who lives with a parent of the child) has engaged in:

  • abuse of the child or another child who, at the time, was a member of the parent’s family (or that other person’s family); or
  • family violence.

If it is found that equal shared parental responsibility is not appropriate, the court will give a greater amount of parenting responsibility to the other parent. If the court finds that equal shared parental responsibility is appropriate, this does not necessarily mean that the court will order an equal time arrangement. The court must consider whether an equal time arrangement is appropriate and if not, the court will then consider a significant and substantial time arrangement. This often is based on both parents having weekend, weekday and holiday time with the child.

In your matter there are a number of options available to assist in determining who the child will live with, how the child will spend time with the other parent and whether or not there are any specific concerns which need to be attended to in order to protect the child. We can provide advice as to which method is most appropriate in coming to resolve parenting matters:

  1. Parenting Plans: Parents are strongly encouraged to consider enter into a parenting plan to formalise arrangements in relation to children. It is important to note that parenting plans cannot be enforced by way of contravention proceedings. This method is based on parents agreeing jointly by committing to writing to the arrangement without having to go to court.
  2. Consent Orders: Similarly to parenting plans, this method can be implemented when parents agree on the parenting arrangements of the child. Consent orders can be entered into to formalise (through the courts approval) the future parenting and living arrangements for your child. Consent orders are binding and enforceable and parties are not normally required to physically appear before a magistrate of judge. A breach of a consent order can lead to contravention or even contempt proceedings.

While negotiating parenting arrangements, it is often a requirement that parties seek third party assistance to come to an agreement. At Ramsden Lawyers we can facilitate and refer you to the leading Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) practitioner and mediation professionals. For more information on FDR and mediation in family law, please click here.

In the case you and your former partner are unable to agree on the terms of parenting for your child, you may need to bring an application to the court for orders from a judge. At Ramsden Lawyers our family lawyers will be able assist you in the best course for your personal situation including meeting all the requirements and ensuring your matter is finalised.

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Email: enquiries@ramsdenlaw.com.au
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