The paramount consideration when determining arrangements for children after separation is the best interests of the child. This is enshrined in the Family Law Act 1975 and it is the focus for family law solicitors when advising clients. The Family Law Act encourages parents reaching resolutions without the need for court intervention by making mediation (also known as Family Dispute Resolution) mandatory for parties before an application to the court is made in a parenting case. There are some exceptions to this requirement. Family Dispute Resolution is available through a number of providers, including at Family Relationships Centres and Relationships Australia.
If mediation is unsuccessful or not appropriate in a particular case or if court proceedings are urgent, family lawyers can assist parties make an application to the court for parenting orders. Common parenting orders include with which parent a child lives, how much time and when they spend time with the other parent, telephone and other communication (such as Skype or Face-time), what school the child attends, medical issues, the issuing of a passport and overseas travel. There is also provision in the Family Law Act 1975 for grandparents and other persons involved in the care, welfare and development of the child to make an application to the court. The court often orders the involvement of a psychologist who specialises in treating children and families to meet the parents and children and make recommendations about what arrangements are in the children’s best interests.
Court costs vary from case to case. At Carew Counsel we endeavour to provide customised costing estimates for each client after their initial consultation and throughout the conduct of their case. We also encourage and assist our clients achieve child focused outcomes for both short term and long term arrangements. This involves our clients giving detailed consideration to historical arrangements for the children (i.e. during the relationship), arrangements since separation and likely changes in the future. This may include changes to living arrangements after a property settlement is achieved, work arrangements, possible re-partnering, primary and secondary school locations, proximity to family members and other support services.
If you are coming to see a family lawyer at Carew Counsel for an initial consultation, we encourage you to prepare a brief chronology of arrangements for the children throughout the relationship and since separation (depending on how recent separation was). This will assist our lawyers and the client make the most of the initial consultation.