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I am separating – What is going to happen to my children?

The Family Law Act specifies what the court must consider when making arrangements for children in a family law dispute.

The court must at all times focus on what is in the best interests of the children.

One of the issues the court will consider is who has and who should have parental responsibility for the children. Unless changed by a court order both parents usually share parental responsibility for their children. Parental responsibility refers making major decisions about your child’s welfare and development, for example where they go to school, their religion and any major medical treatment they may need.

The court will then decide the best care arrangements for the children, including how much time each child should spend with the parents and what responsibilities are attached to that care. Sometimes people refer to this as child custody.

The court does not have a set rule or formula that they apply to parenting cases so it is important to remember that every matter and situation is different. Some people think that there is an automatic right to 50/50 time with their children – this is a myth! The court will decide what is in the best interests of your child not what seems ‘fair’ to the parents.

Another myth is that parenting disputes have to go to court. There are a variety of options for you and your former partner to look to when you are negotiating parenting arrangements and many of these options are outside of a court room.

At FGD we are passionate about alternate dispute resolution. We can help advise you about how to reach an agreement with your former partner that is in the best interests of your children. Often separated couples are able to reach an agreement about the care of their children through negotiation, collaboration or mediation. If you reach an agreement outside of court your solicitor can help you and your former partner draft consent orders. We will then file these with the court and they will be made into Orders (a legally binding document).

We are not just here to give you legal advice, at FGD we want to support you through your family law dispute as much as possible. We have great connections with other professional in Canberra who can help you deal with all aspects of your relationship breakdown. We also have our in house family and child consultant Amy McGinn who is able to talk to you about ways to cope and move through what can often be a very difficult time.

Separations can often be a very emotional and uncertain time and it is important to acknowledge the effect that this can have on your children. Conflict in the family and the trailing of new childcare arrangements can have a big impact on your child’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Child Inclusive Practice can be a great tool in parenting cases, as it allows your children’s feelings to be heard. Your children will meet with a child specialist who will talk to your children on their level. The purpose of the discussion is to gain an understanding of their views but never to pressure them to make a decision about what should happen. After the interview the child specialist with give the parents feedback. This feedback is a great resource and can often give a new perspective on the dispute and current parenting arrangements. The information provided through CIP can greatly assist parents in making decisions which focus on the children’s best interests and discuss the potential outcomes and effects of parenting arrangements.

Whilst child inclusive practice can be used in a variety of different circumstances we believe that it is most effective during the collaborative process. At Farrar Gesini Dunn we specialise in collaborative law and believe it is a great option of dispute resolution which keeps you in the driver’s seat and keeps your children at the centre of negotiations.