Navigating child custody is one of the hardest parts of any divorce or separation. It may be difficult, but it’s worth taking care to do it right – a good arrangement will make life much easier for both you, your children and your ex.
To get you started we’ve put together a quick guide to navigating child custody in Australia.
Mediation is the first step
The first step in any child custody discussion should be an open, honest conversation outside of court, wherever possible. With a little compromise and effort it’s often possible to reach an agreement that’s in your child’s best interest without the stress, cost and time that going to court may require.
Testart Family Law has a team of lawyers with years of experience helping parents do just that. We can help with all aspects of mediation including:
- Custody: deciding who the child will spend time with, when and where.
- Financial responsibility: how the costs of parenting will be met and whether financial support is required for either partner.
When these agreements are made they can be put down in writing in what’s called a ‘consent order’, an agreement that lays out financial, parenting and other responsibilities and is then formalised by the court. The great thing about these orders is that you won’t need to actually attend court to prepare yours.
If mediation doesn’t work
The court may require you to attend mediation before you go to court, so it’s usually best to make a genuine attempt during this first step (in urgent cases the court may exempt you from this requirement). In the rare event that mediation doesn’t work, the next step is to attend family court.
It’s always best to seek legal representation from an experienced family lawyer at this stage to help you navigate the complexities of the court system and to ensure you understand exactly what’s going to happen. The court will hear submissions from both parents then issue a parenting order, which will set out who will be responsible for the child and how the parenting arrangement will work going forward.
The court will always seek to make decisions based on what’s in your child’s best interest and will prefer not to deprive either parent of custody rights so that the child can have a relationship with both parents (unless it’s deemed necessary because of extenuating circumstances). The parenting order may include details around:
- Who the child will live with and where they will live.
- Apportionment of responsibility for the child’s needs.
- Big decisions around the child’s future such as religion or schooling.
- Visitation time, or an allocation of time between parents.
Usually shared custody is preferred by the court, but if it’s deemed to be in the child’s best interest they may award sole custody.
Getting the help you need
While you can represent yourself in family court, the process can be complex and there’s a lot riding on the results. That’s why it’s always best to seek advice from an experienced family lawyer early in the process.
With a good family lawyer as support you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of reaching a favourable outcome with minimal stress. To get started get in touch with Testart Family Law today and book your first consultation free.