Child custody is more commonly referred to these days as ‘parental responsibility’, ‘live with’ and ‘spend time’ arrangements or by the general term ‘parenting orders’. Regardless of what it is called, future parenting arrangements are always focused on the best interests of the child/children first and foremost.
Fortunately, separated parents can often reach an amicable agreement about their children’s day-to-day living arrangements and long-term needs. There are no set legal requirements around this. If agreement can be reached, it is generally advisable to have the agreement written in a parenting plan or formalised through Consent Orders, which are approved and enforceable by the Court. Your family lawyer will guide you through this process.
However, in circumstances where parents are unable to reach agreement about their children’s live with and spend time with arrangements, there are three avenues available:
- Negotiation, with or without a lawyer,
- Mediation or family dispute resolution, or
- Court proceedings in the Federal Circuit Family Court of Australia
In most circumstances, separating parents are required to attend mediation with a qualified family dispute resolution practitioner in an attempt to reach agreement about child custody arrangements before commencing proceedings in the Federal Circuit Family Court of Australia. Going to Court for child custody arrangements, and all the stress and cost associated with that, is almost always regarded as a last resort.
Should attempts at negotiation and/or mediation fail, the case will be brought before the Federal Circuit Family Court of Australia. There are two primary considerations that the Family Court must consider in parenting matters and these considerations are often reflected in any advice provided by your family lawyer:
- The benefit to a child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
- To protect a child from risk of harm.
There are also secondary considerations, including, but not limited to, the child’s age, changes in the child’s circumstances, distance between the parties, the attitude of the parents towards the child and the responsibilities of parenthood and/or family violence.
Our experienced family lawyers can help you at every stage of your parenting matter to reach an outcome that is focused on your child’s best interest.
We offer a free no obligation first consultation. Call our Newcastle office on 02 4058 5844 or email us to arrange a private and confidential meeting with our family lawyer who specialises in child custody matters.