This topic is often the most heart wrenching for people separating. It can be very difficult to leave your children with a former spouse who you no longer trust or respect. These difficulties multiply when there are significant differences between the style of parenting of each of the parties. While parents are at loggerheads, children are left wondering where on earth they fit, how they should act and what on earth they can say without offending their parents.
What are children’s issues?
Children’s issues are all the arrangements and decisions that need to be made for children. Some of the children’s issues that parents may wish to discuss and sort out include:
- where children might live – and options include living with one parent and spending time with the other parent or living between each parent on a week about basis or on some other basis
- how much time the children are to spend with the parent that they don’t live with
- who the children spend school holidays with
- what time the children spend with either parent on special occasions such as Easter, Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, the birthdays of the children and each of the parents and on any other occasion that is special for the children or the parents
- where handovers between the parents are to occur, what time they are to occur and who is entitled to be present at the handovers
- where the children are to go to kindergarten or school
- what medical treatment the children are to receive
- what extra curricular activities the children are to be involved in.
Our best advice – try to agree – by yourself or via mediation
As cliched as this might sound, and as hard as it might be, the best thing that you can do is to try to reach agreement with your former spouse about the various children’s issues that you are faced with. You can do this by having discussions in person on your own or with the help of a mediator.
Mediation services are readily available in South Australia and are a great, cost effective way to work towards an agreement with your former spouse about the arrangements for children.
You can access mediation services via the following links:
- Relationships Australia in various locations throughout Adelaide
- Family Relationships Centre in Port Augusta and Port Pirie
If you are able to reach agreement, then you can record the terms of your agreement in a document prepared by you or your former spouse or if you have used mediation services, you can have the mediator prepare a parenting agreement. A parenting agreement is not binding but is at least a helpful guide to what has been agreed.
If you wish to formalize your agreement, then you can contact us and we can prepare an agreement in a form that can be registered with the court and which is binding upon you and your former spouse.
If you just can’t agree
Despite your best efforts, you may reach an impasse and be forced to consider other options.
If you can’t agree, then we can help you apply to the Court seeking formal orders that set out the arrangements that you believe are best for the children.
Before you can apply to the court for parenting orders, you must first have been through mediation to attempt to reach agreement. There are some cases such as where family violence is involved, that you can apply to the court for parenting orders without having undergone mediation. This is because the court considers that in certain circumstances, the matter is too urgent to be left unresolved or is simply not suitable for mediation.
Court proceedings regarding children’s issues are costly and can be frustrating, so it is important that from the outset, you manage your expectations about what you can expect to achieve.
Before we start preparing your court documents we will:
- give you an estimate of your costs and provide you with a document setting out our terms of engagement
- ask you to place funds into our trust account, the amount of which will depend on the work required for your matter
- talk to you about what you are looking to achieve and whether your goals are realistic or not
- give you a rundown on the process involved in applying for children’s orders.
How does the Court make decisions about children?
The Family Law Act provides parameters for the court to consider when making orders about children.
The main concept underlying everything is the “best interests of the children”. When the court considers arrangements and decisions about children’s issues, it is this concept that they are focussing on.
The primary considerations for determining what is in the best interests of the children are:
- the benefit to the children of having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents; and
- the need to protect the children from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence
The additional factors that the court considers include:
- any views expressed by the children
- the nature of the relationship that the children have with each parent and any other person such as a grandparent
- the extent to which each parent has taken (or failed to take) the opportunity to spend time with the children and communicate with them
- the extent to which each parent has met their responsibility to maintain the children
- the likely effect that any change in circumstances will have on the children
- the capacity of each of the parents to provide for the needs of the children
- the maturity, sex, lifestyle and background of the children
- any family violence that has occurred
Whatever stage you are at, we can offer sound and practical advice about how to deal with your children’s issues. Contact us today to help ease your mind and gain some direction.