At the time of a family breakdown, often your first thought is, ‘how are we going to reach an agreement with respect to spending time with the children?’
The family law system in Australia will always consider the ‘best interests of the children’.
At Meillon & Bright, our family lawyers understand the importance of parents wanting to provide stability for children and, where required, protecting children from any risks of physical, emotional or psychological harm.
With diverse experience in parenting matters, our family lawyers have an understanding of the impacts of separation on children, what is appropriate for children at various stages in their development and our advice is tailored to the needs of each individual child – no two are the same.
What is Family Dispute Resolution?
It is a requirement before commencing any Family Court proceedings that parents attempt to resolve matters by way of Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”). Some exceptions do apply.
FDR is a mediated process where parents meet with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (“FDRP”); on their own at first instance and then often together, to discuss what is in the best interests for their children.
FDR is a valuable step to be taken where appropriate and we encourage our clients to participate in the process in the hope that it will avoid court proceedings.
FDR can be conducted through community-based services such as Family Relationship’s Service and also privately. There can be a large wait with the community-based services. If client’s need recommendations for FDRP providers, we can assist.
FDR is not appropriate for families with issues of domestic violence or in urgent matters, such as Watch List Orders.
We always encourage clients to meet with us prior to FDR. It can be a valuable appointment to discuss various options available, brainstorm solutions that would suit your family and assist in creating the agenda for the joint meeting.
If parties cannot reach an agreement through Family Dispute Resolution, we can assist you with filing proceedings in the Family Court to assist in seeking orders for each parent’s, or significant person’s time (or no time) with children.
What do we mean by “the best interests of the children”?
The primary aim of the Family Law Courts is to “ensure that the best interests of children” are met by:
- Ensuring children have the benefit of both of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives, to the maximum extent consistent with the best interests of the child;
- Protecting children from physical or psychological harm and from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence; and
- Ensuring that children receive adequate and proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential; and
- Ensuring that parents fulfil their duties and meet their responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of the children.
How do I formalise arrangements in relation to children?
Arrangements for children can be formalised by way of parenting plan, consent orders or orders that require judicial determination.
A parenting plan is agreed and signed by parties without involvement of the court. The parenting plan recognises the agreement reached and should be signed and dated.
Whilst a parenting plan is not an order of the court, they often have significant weight by way of evidence in the event they are not followed.
Consent orders are a more formal way of documenting a parenting plan.
The consent orders are often filed in the Family Court with a Form 11 Application for Consent Orders. The “sealing” of the orders creates an order of the court and provides a method for enforceability in the event the orders are not complied with.
Orders made by judicial determination are when two parties are not in agreement as to what arrangements should be made for their children and a Judge or Magistrate is required to make the decision for them. This is then published by way of orders and has the same method of enforceability as consent orders.
We have extensive experience in children’s matters, both complex and straightforward. Some of the more complicated matters we have worked with include:
- Matters involving allegations of child trafficking;
- Domestic and international child abduction;
- Relocation of children; and
- Allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
At Meillon & Bright, we work with you to provides practical advice that is child-focused when discussing potential care arrangements for children.
We are focused on reaching fair outcomes that remain in the best interests of the child/children whilst being balanced with the views of parents and guardians. We understand the detrimental effects conflict can have on the child.