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child arrangements Relocation and Recovery

Claudia returned after her mother abducted her to WA

Peter and Claudia were a fantastic father and daughter team, they spent many hours discussing their favorite sports. Peter was deeply involved with Claudia’s home schooling. He lived with Claudia and her mother. One night, though, Peter returned home from shopping to discover both Claudia and her mother were gone. An urgent application was made to the Family Court of Australia and the Australian Federal Police found Claudia safe in West Australia and a few days later she was home safe and sound with her dad. Peter and Claudia continue to spend many happy hours together today.

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child arrangements Living Arrangements

Child Custody – The Basics

Child Custody – The Basics

The Australian legislature made significant changes to the way the courts approach custody issues in 2006. This legislation indicated a strong preference for parents to reach an agreement without resorting to litigation, and also for parents to enjoy shared parental responsibility.

Consistent with the legislature’s aims, you are required to attend family dispute resolution to reach an agreement before using the courts to determine your custody issues. After completion of family dispute resolution, you will be issued a certificate that must be filed with your application to the court for a parenting order. The court will not entertain an application without a certificate except for extreme circumstances (ie, threat of violence or abuse).

There are many dispute resolution methods you may use in order to reach an amicable agreement regarding custody. You may use the government sanctioned Family Relationship Centres and Family Advice Line, or you could use other methods such as collaborative law or arbitration.

Once you have completed the required dispute resolution process, you may apply for a parenting order. This order will address whom the child should live with, how much time the child spends with each parent, and the nature and type of communication the child should have with each parent among other issues. These orders are fully enforceable and failure to comply with a parenting order could have serious repercussions.

You may also reach an agreement with regard to parenting through something known as a parenting plan. A parenting plan is an informal agreement between parents that addresses similar issues that a parenting order would address. The major difference between a parenting plan and a parenting order is that the former is not enforceable like a court order and therefore the breaching party is not subject to the same sanctions.

Should you be unable to address your parenting issues through dispute resolution services or a parenting plan, you may litigate your case in court. There are certain procedural rules with regard to parenting proceedings that exist to make this process as smooth as possible for the child or children involved.

The main thing to keep in mind with regard to parenting is that all parties involved should be acting with the best interest of the child at heart. The court will apply this standard if asked to address parenting issues and it should also be the main consideration for parents when trying to settle their dispute.

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Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Divorce Divorce & Parenting Parenting Plans Parenting Plans Parenting Plans

Parenting Arrangements after Divorce

Parenting Arrangements

Divorce is painful for everyone concerned, especially children. During this challenging period, children need love, support and contact with both parents.

Creating certainty about the future is crucial for children when their parents separate. Parents coming to a mutual agreement about parenting arrangements can help to provide clarity and certainty.

When parents agree

Following separation, parents may agree on a parenting arrangement that works for them and the children. The agreement should focus on providing for the needs of the children and may include financial arrangements.

A parenting arrangement can be agreed orally, in writing or put into a formal court order known as ‘consent orders’ (which requires an application to the court but does not require a court appearance).

When parents don’t agree

If parents can’t agree on parenting arrangements, they can apply to the court for a parenting order. Usually (except in the case of family violence and other specific circumstances), parents are not permitted to apply for a parenting court order until they have first attempted family dispute resolution (mediation).

The court’s primary concern will be to protect the children from psychological or physical harm. The court will address this before deciding about parenting arrangements.

The Australian Government has published a book to help develop parenting plans. This resource can help prepare clear, practical parenting arrangements that are focused on what’s best for the children.

What to consider when creating a parenting agreement?

When making parenting arrangements, parents may consider a range of issues including:

  • The capacity of each parent to provide day-to-day care?
  • The age of the children?
  • The arrangements for the children before and after school and during  school holidays?
  • Will the children spend their time with other significant people in their lives, like grandparents or other relatives?
  • The children’s educational needs?
  • Any cultural considerations?
  • The special needs of the children, including educational and medical?
  • The children’s wishes, having regard to their age and stage of development?
  • Other practical considerations such as transport and accommodation expenses?

While a routine may be best for your children overall, flexibility is likely to be an essential ingredient of a parenting agreement.

Relocating with children

If you are thinking of relocating with your children at a distance that would dramatically affect the time they spend with the other parent, you will need to come to an agreement with the other parent. If agreement is not reached, an application to the family law courts seeking permission to relocate the children will be required.

The proposed relocation destination may involve moving intrastate, interstate or overseas. Consider how the relocation will affect the children’s relationship with the other parent and ask yourself the question ‘Would the move be in the children’s best interests?’ – the court will ask the same question.

What’s next?

Consider what is best for your children’s short-term and long-term wellbeing.

Work out what concerns need to be addressed in your parenting arrangement.

Decide whether you want the parenting agreement to be an informal oral or written agreement, a parenting plan signed and dated by both parents or a court order obtained by consent or by order of the court (judge made order).

Contact an accredited family law specialist or family dispute resolution practitioner to obtain the advice that you need to resolve your post-separation parenting issues.

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Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Divorce Divorce & Parenting Parenting Plans

5 signs that your child is affected by your divorce

child affected by divorce

Separation and divorce hurts. There’s no getting around that fact.

Without special care and attention, children can be the unintended victims of separation and divorce. For them, their parent’s separation can open a floodgate of emotions, which, for children of any age can be difficult to process and express.

Many of the parents we speak with of course to want to minimise the impact of their divorce on their children, but do not always know what signs to look for. So how can you identify the signs that your child may be being adversely affected by your separation and divorce?

Although every child is unique, there are some clear signs to look out for:

Your child is feeling sad and cries more than usual

Your child could be sad and cry a lot. It might be more difficult than usual to comfort them. They might cry for no reason or react disproportionately to that which to you seem to be minor issues.

The things they cry over may have nothing to do with the separation and divorce however due to difficulty in understanding and accepting the changes to their family, their ability to deal with other issues may be diminished and they can become easily upset.

Your child gets separation anxiety

You or your former partner might find that your children don’t want to leave your side, or that they want to stay with the other parent and resist going with the other parent.

Separation anxiety for children is common when parents separate. Their anxiety is a result of the significant changes they are experiencing and staying close to one or both parents is their way of managing.

Your child is overly emotional and gets angry

When parents separate, it may cause the children to feel uncertain, insecure, worried or anxious. The complex emotions they feel and their inability to express their feelings may be ‘acted out’, such as angry verbal or physical outbursts or uncooperative behavior. Helping your children to express those complex emotions can help to release the anger and improve their wellbeing and anxiety.

Your child is withdrawn and has lost interest in activities

The stress of parents separating can result in children withdrawing into themselves and refusing to engage in activities they have enjoyed in the past. Some children stop hanging out with their friends, preferring to spend all their time in their room, keeping a distance from their family and doing things by themselves.

Decline in school performance

When children are tackling a stressful situation at home, it can directly impact on their performance at school. The stress at home takes so much of their attention and energy and they may have difficulty focusing in class.

At home, they may be anxious and distracted, unable to focus on homework, negatively affecting their academic performance.

The dip in academic performance can result in further anxiety for the child; they feel terrible about falling behind, compounding the situation with another stressful situation. If your child is struggling at school after separation, it is a good idea to inform the school about the situation at home.

Conclusion

Separated parents feel responsible for their child’s suffering. Parents must remain united in their commitment to ensuring that any adverse impact on their children is kept to a minimum, and, if any are identified they are immediately met with an appropriate united response. Conflict between parents will certainly exacerbate the impact on the children, potentially dramatically.

If you detect a dramatic change in your children’s behavior and emotions, and your efforts to support them aren’t helping, please seek urgent help. Early intervention can help both you and your children to get the support required to see you through this difficult time.

Recommended Post: Family Violence and Children at Risk

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Case Studies child arrangements Parenting Proceedings

The Role Of The Single Expert Witness In Child Custody Matters – Case Note

The role of the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer was considered in a recent child custody decision by the Family Court of Western Australia (Worrall and Bartley [2018] FCWA 132).

In accordance with an earlier order that the interim parenting arrangements (child custody) for the nine year old child (who had been the subject of litigation for eight years) be reviewed after 12 months, the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer conducted his review and published a report.

The father sought that final parenting orders (child custody orders) be made in terms of the existing interim parenting orders or otherwise in accordance with the recommendations of the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer ‘on the papers’, that is without cross examination of the parties and / or witnesses.

The mother objected on the grounds that:

  1. She did not consent to the making of final parenting orders as proposed by the father; and
  2. She did not accept the opinion evidence submitted by the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer and the child’s psychologist.

His Honor held that:

  1. It would be procedurally unfair to make final orders in reliance on the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer report without affording the mother the opportunity to challenge it in cross-examination;
  2. The simple acceptance of the recommendations of the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer, without affording the opportunity for cross-examination, might reasonably be perceived as an abrogation by the Court of its decision-making responsibility in favour of the Expert;
  3. A Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer, no matter how experienced or qualified, is still simply that: a witness;
  4. The expertise of the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer renders his or her opinion evidence admissible, but the opinion remains subject to an assessment by the Court as to the weight to be given by it;
  5. While expert evidence is of great assistance to the Court and informs many of the decisions which must be made, the responsibility for making those decisions is the Court’s alone;
  6. A Court hearing will afford the Court the opportunity to ask questions directly of the Single Expert Witness / Family Report Writer and child’s psychologist, if appropriate.

For these reasons, His Honour declined to determine the matter ‘on the papers’ and the matter was listed for final hearing in the Family Court with cross-examination of the experts.

The Family Court child custody case upholds the principle of ‘procedural fairness’ and the importance of parties having the right to put all witnesses, including expert witnesses, ‘to the test’.

Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists is an award winning best family law firm in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs recognised for its expertise in complex Family Court child custody matters.

Please contact Vanessa Mathews on vanessam@mflaw.com.au or  1300 635 529 to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss your child custody matter with one of the best family lawyers in Melbourne, accredited family law specialist, Vanessa Mathews.

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Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Divorce Divorce & Parenting Parenting Plans

Ten Tips For The Holidays

by Dr. Robin Deutsch, Psychologist

1. Have a very specific plan for the holidays so there is no opportunity for confusion or conflict. Parents may alternate or split holidays, but when there is disagreement about this plan, consider the longer view of alternating holidays by even and odd years. Holidays are often a time of heightened emotions, and the reality of the loss associated with separation or divorce is no more apparent than when parents must spend a holiday without their children or without old traditions.

2. Try to continue traditions of the past for the children. If they are accustomed to spending Christmas Eve with one extended family, try to continue that tradition, if not every year then in alternate years. Parents should consider maintaining some of the family traditions the first year after the separation, and alternating beginning the following year.

3.