Disputes in relation to the care of a child can be very emotionally trying and difficult to resolve. It should be remembered that every parenting matter is treated individually based on the facts of the case. The law recognises that both mother and father should have a continuing relationship and involvement in their children’s lives.

There have been many changes to the law as it relates to children recently.

The Family Court recognises that disputes in relation to the children are best settled by negotiation by the parties outside the Court room. For this reason a number of Family Relationship Centres have been established to help parties mediate to resolve disputes in relation to the care of their children. These Centres provide an inexpensive avenue for parents to negotiate arrangements that provide the best care arrangements for their children.

It is recommended that parents seek legal advice in relation to their rights before attending a mediation session and also following the mediation so that any agreement reached can be properly documented.

If mediation is unsuccessful the parties are able to make an Application to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to determine the arrangements for the children.

When determining parenting disputes the Court must decide a number of things including basically the parental responsibility arrangements and the arrangements for time spent with a child by each of the parents.

Parental responsibility relates to the long term decisions in relation to the child such as where the child will go to school, the child’s religious upbringing and medical decisions. The Court generally makes a presumption that it is in the child’s best interests for the parents to have equal shared parental responsibility so that both parents have equal power for these long term decisions.

Time spent with a child is the allocation of the child’s time between parents. The Courts initially must determine whether it is appropriate for the parties to have the child 50% of the time each. If this is determined not to be appropriate the Court will attempt to give the parent who the child does not live with what is known as ‘substantial and significant time’ which includes weekend time, weekday time and holiday time. This allows each parent to have an active involvement in the child’s daily routine.

It is important to remember that each case is different and must be determined on its own individual facts.

Separation when there are children involved can be a very difficult time for parents. We encourage you to come and discuss your matter with our Family Law Accredited Specialist, Riccarda Stock, who can assist you with accurate and compassionate advice to see you through these most important issues.