Reaching an agreement between yourselves about the care arrangements in place for your children after separating is the best way to have an arrangement in place.
It means you can avoid the conflict of litigation and other adversarial processes and it demonstrates that you are both able to prioritise the needs of your children above your own interests or perceptions. This is an ideal outcome, and one that is achievable for most of our clients, however a great deal of planning and commitment from both sides is required for this to be successful.
When considering making care arrangements for your kids, it is useful to be aware of the kinds of things that can come up that can cause angst or create distrust if not discussed early. Here are some examples, just to name a few:
- Whether notification of inter-state travel needs to be given to the other parent;
- What school your kids will go to;
- Time for special occasions, like Christmas and Easter;
- What each of you expects your kids will have with them when they travel to your house, or to the other parent’s house;
- Calling your children by the surname that is on their Birth Certificate;
- Under what circumstances overseas travel will occur.
When there is an agreement about these arrangements, it can be informally documented in writing and signed by both of you (without the involvement of the Court). This is known as a Parenting Plan.
Alternatively, you can file your agreement with the Court as Consent Orders. The Registrar of the Court will then normally review the Orders, without either of parties needing to appear in Court. Parenting Plans are easier to alter in the future than Consent Orders but they do not have nearly the same force.
When there is no agreement, there are still plenty of options. There are alternative dispute resolution processes available to you to push an ‘almost agreement’ over the line, such as mediation, collaboration or conciliation. Worst case scenario, you may need to consider commencing Court proceedings.
Prior to filing an application with the Court, in most instances, there is also a legislative requirement to first participate in family dispute resolution.
If you need help drafting documents reflecting your agreement, or you have not been able to reach an agreement in relation to parenting and would like to know more about your options, then give us a call.