If the parents cannot reach agreement about parenting arrangements, the Family Court will make decisions that are in the ‘best interests of the child’; that is a term that is engrained in family law legislation, for good reason.
It is not only parents that can make an application to the Family Court about parenting arrangements; grandparents and significant others such as extended family members that play an important role in children’s lives can also apply for parenting orders.
When referring to the care of children, the traditional word used was ‘custody’. Today, the Family Court deals with:
- ‘Equal Shared Parental Responsibility’ (ESPR) – the overarching rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority parents have to make the significant decisions about their children (medical, education, religion, cultural, living, names);
- ‘Live with’ – where children shall live, and with whom; and
- ‘Spend time’ – where, when and with whom the child shall spend their time.
Each parent has Equal Shared Parental Responsibility irrespective of whether they are married or not, living together or separated, whether or not they have been involved in the child’s upbringing, and even if a parent is in prison, relocated interstate or overseas, or is mentally ill. A parent’s responsibility for their child continues unless the Family Court makes an order otherwise.
Making arrangements for children after a family separation can often be difficult and stressful. Separation is difficult enough when juggling the finances, emotions and stress, but is can become extremely tough if the other parent is uncooperative and loses sight of the best interests of the child.
Situations can become particularly inflamed when there are mental health issues, or drug and alcohol addictions to address.
That’s why West Family Lawyers recommend mediation in most cases and after seeking specific legal advice particular to your situation.
We help you by giving advice on such questions like:
- My child comes back tired and unsettled after spending time with the other parent. Is this normal?
- My ex-partner has a different parenting style to me, what can I do?
- We can’t agree on what school our children will go to and who will pay, what happens now?
- I want to relocate to another state with my child as I am not coping, what are my options?
- My ex-partner wants to change our child’s surname but I don’t agree. Can I stop that happening?
As mentioned above, the Family Court makes decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests, and that may be different for each family.
At West Family Lawyers we have deep knowledge and experience in dealing with parenting matters and we can assist whether you can’t agree on parenting issues, or if you have reached agreement with the other parent and wish to formalise that agreement.
Ideally, children do not become involved in what is a ‘parent process’. Children have a right to a relationship with both parents, and if both parents can resolve any dispute as quickly, and as amicably, as possible, everyone wins. When we work with our clients in parenting matters, that is our goal.
Family Mediation Lawyers
Ordinarily, the Family Court requires that parents have attempted mediation to try to work out the parenting arrangements going forward. There are exceptions when mediation may not be suitable, for example where there is violence or abuse in the relationship. Generally, mediation is a successful process. West Family Lawyers can recommend mediators in Perth.
Family Court recognised mediators are known as ‘Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners’ (FDRP). After meeting our clients, we make our recommendations about mediators, or FDRPs, to suit the individual and the relevant circumstances.
The goal of mediation is to reach agreement between parents and develop a parenting arrangment. Ideally, that parenting plan will then be formalised and lodged at the Family Court in the form of an Application for Consent Orders, or Form 11.
It depends on the age and stage of development of the child. There is no hard and fast rule as to when a child’s views are considered.
Each case is different and the just and equitable division of the relationship assets depends on the circumstances of the case.
No. The Family Court refers to children “spending time with” and “living with” their parents, or other caregivers.
Depending on the age and maturity of the child, and other relevant factors, the Court may make orders in accordance with a child’s views, however it is at the Court’s discretion and on a case-by-case basis.
If an agreement cannot be reached between the parties, you can seek the Court’s assistance to make Orders in the best interests of your children.
No. The Family Court can make orders for another person to interview a child and provide their views to the Family Court.
It is not unusual for the Family Court to appoint an independent lawyer who represents the child’s best interests.
The above is general information only, if you need assistance, please contact the West Family Lawyers team on +61 8 9380 9111 for advice on your particular circumstances.