After separation most parents are able to reach agreement about arrangements for their children, but for some it takes longer than others. Unless there are Court orders in place, both parents continue to have parental responsibility for their children after separation. This means that there is an obligation on both parents to consult with one another and to attempt to reach agreement about arrangements for their children.
Mediation is a good start
There are a range of services available to assist parents in reaching agreements including organisations such as Relationships Australia, the Conflict Resolution Service and the Family Relationships Centre. There are also private mediation providers that often have shorter waiting lists.
What if you can't reach agreement?
If you cannot reach agreement you will be issued a certificate that permits you to commence Court proceedings. The certificate can only be issued by a qualified Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. In urgent circumstances, you may be able to commence proceedings even though you do not have the certificate.
Do you need to document any agreement reached?
There is no formal requirement to document any agreement reached, but it is often a good idea to think about entering into a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan is a written document which sets out arrangements for children and needs to be signed by both parents. It can be updated at any time by agreement. A Parenting Plan is not enforceable like Court orders, but a Court must take into account the terms of any Parenting Plan that exists if it is asked to make Orders about children the subject of a Parenting Plan. For this reason, you should consider obtaining legal advice before entering into a Parenting Plan.
What else does the Court take into account?
There are many factors the Court considers in determining what is in the best interests of children when it is asked to make parenting orders and these are outlined in Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975.
If you would like advice about your options, rights or obligations about parenting arrangements, please contact us.