Parenting Arrangements need help? Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers is not your ordinary law firm. Our family lawyers are not only knowledgeable and experienced, but are also exceptionally passionate about family law. They will work tirelessly with you to finalise your case and reach your desired result.
Often, when relationships breakdown, the biggest worry is what will happen to the children. There are several different options for parenting arrangements after separation. These options are based on whether or not the parties to the relationship can come to an amicable agreement about the arrangement. Potential parenting arrangements fall under the following categories, each of which will be discussed in further detail below:
An informal arrangement usually comes about if there has been an amicable separation. In most cases, the parties have verbally come to an agreement on how the children will be parented, but they have not recorded this in writing or had lawyers review their case. As informal arrangements aren’t legally binding or enforceable, there are no guarantees that they will last.
While this method of organising parenting arrangements can be successful, it is important to realise that you do not know what the future holds and a separation, which is amicable today, may turn sour in the future. Often times, when one party enters into a relationship and remarries, living circumstances will change and the other party will not be satisfied with the informal arrangement anymore.
To avoid this situation, it is best to contact our specialised family lawyers to assist you in coming to a more formal, effective and long-lasting parenting arrangement.
If both parties to the relationship can come to an amicable agreement about parenting arrangements, then a parenting plan is an option. It is a written contract between the parents that sets out the parameters of the parenting arrangements. Parenting plans come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as specific as you want and there is no set guideline on what must and mustn’t be included in them. Most parenting plans will contain details on who the child will live with, who the child will spend time with, schooling arrangements and who has parental responsibility for the child.
You do not go to Court to arrange a parenting plan. In some cases, parenting plans can be used to alter parenting orders that have been made by the Court. However, if the Court orders that these alterations cannot be made, then the parenting plan will be deemed ineffective.
It is important to note that unlike parenting orders, parenting plans are not legally enforceable contracts. If there is a parenting dispute, the Court may take into account the most recent parenting plan when handing down a decision.
In a way, consent orders are similar to parenting plans as the parents come to an agreement. This agreement is then drafted into a written agreement. However, what makes consent orders different from parenting plans is the fact that the Court must approve them. By having the Court approve these orders, they become legally enforceable.
In assessing the consent orders, the Court will consider whether the orders are in the best interests of the child. If they find that they are, then the consent orders will be approved and will become legally binding.
The greatest advantage of consent orders is that they are legally enforceable and therefore provide greater certainty for your parenting arrangements. Unlike informal arrangements and parenting plans, if consent orders are breached, there can be legal ramifications.
Application to the Court and Parenting Orders
If the parents cannot agree on parenting arrangements after separation, they can make an application to the Court. However, before the Court will get involved in parenting arrangements, the parents will have to fulfil pre-action procedures, including participation in a Family Dispute Resolution Conference.
Before filing an application for an order that relates to a child under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), you must obtain a certificate indicating that you have attended a Family Dispute Resolution Conference. The purpose of participating in such a conference is to avoid going to court and to increase the likelihood of the parties coming to an agreement themselves, thus saving time and money.
There are several exceptions to the need to obtain the above certificate. For example, if the Court is satisfied that there is a history of family violence or child abuse, or a risk of either of these, then you do not have to obtain a certificate prior to making an application for parenting orders. For a full outline of the exceptions to obtaining a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner, see section 60I(9) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).
Similarly to consent orders, the advantage of obtaining parenting orders is that they provide a higher degree of certainty for your children’s future. In making these orders, the Court considers the best interests of the child.
We know that going through a separation can be one of the most difficult and uncertain times in your life. But here at Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers, we try to lift some of that weight off your shoulders. We understand that a one-size fits all approach does not work during separations. After all, every family is different.
Our highly trained team, which is led by an Accredited Family Law Specialist, provides a friendly, reliable and personalised legal service and will work with you to reach your best outcome.
For assistance and reassurance in planning your parenting arrangements after separation, contact Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers Sydney on (02) 9633 1088 today. We have three convenient locations throughout Sydney, with offices located in Parramatta, Surry Hills and Crows Nest. One of our friendly lawyers will be more than happy to assist you in gaining further insight into your future parenting arrangements.