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child arrangements Children De Facto Relationships Divorce Divorce & Parenting Living Arrangements

Who gets the children?

Hi, I’m Vanessa Mathews from Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists. Today’s topic is children and parental responsibility. I’m going to provide you with some of the basic information you should have before you begin discussing child custody with your spouse or partner.

I also suggest you read the information provided on our website at mathewsfamilylaw.com.au and I highly recommend that you speak with a lawyer before signing anything or filing any court documents.

Often I find that people forget the most important part of their parenting dispute, which is of course, their children. Unless one parent is a physical or emotional danger to the children, most children are better off in the long run maintaining a close and meaningful relationship with both parents. The less fighting between you, the better it is for your children.

Before you begin discussing the children with your partner or spouse, there are a few important terms to remember. First, there’s equal shared parental responsibility. Australian law changed a few years ago and today, parents are generally given equal shared parental responsibility for their children. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the children live in both homes equally, but rather that both parents have the same rights in making major decisions for the children.

The other important term is custody which means who the children live with. There is primary custody where the children live more with one parent than the other, then there’s shared care, where the parents have more shared time with the children. You and your partner can also come up with your own parenting agreement, which is an arrangement for taking care of your children.

A good parenting agreement should be as detailed as possible. It should include where the children will be on each days of the week and during the school holidays, how major decisions for the children will be made, such as the religion they have to be raised in and the schools they will attend. The agreement should also look towards the future. For example, by anticipating the changes from primarily to secondary school, extra- curricular activities and healthy expenses such as orthodontics.

A good parenting agreement will also have a way for resolving disputes. So, when there is a disagreement, there is a clear way to solve the problem. For example, some couples require that they first sit down and talk to each other to come to a compromise. Others might decide that it’s best to turn to a mediator or family dispute resolution practitioner.

You can submit this agreement to the court for approval, which makes it binding on both sides this is called a consent parenting order or you can opt for a parenting plan, which is not binding on either of you. If you can not agree between yourselves, you can bring the dispute to the court and a judge will decide for you.

We believe it’s always better for parents, and not the judge, to decide about children as it is you who knows what’s best for them. The co-parenting calendar on the Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists website will help you and your spouse or partner to plan your children’s living arrangements. I’m Vanessa Mathews at Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists.

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4 Step Property Settlement Process Divorce Divorce & Parenting Property Settlements

Do I have to be divorced before I can apply to the Court for children’s or property settlement Orders?

No, you do not have to wait to be divorced.

You can apply for Orders concerning your property or children as soon as you separate.

But, when your divorce is granted, you will then have only 12 months to seek property settlement Orders.  After this time you need to apply to the Court for special permission to issue proceedings.

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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

Categories
Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Divorce Divorce & Parenting

‘Alienation? Myths, Complexities and Possibilities … ‘

Dear Friends

Last weekend I attended the AFCC Australian Chapter conference in Adelaide.

The conference topic was ‘Alienation? Myths, complexities and possibilities …’.

The caliber of the papers was excellent.

I was particularly interested in the workshop offered by Dr Philip Stahl, Psychologist, on domestic violence differentiation, personality disorders and unconscious bias.

Also of great interest was the current research on high conflict separations, alienation and children resisting contact with parents.

Early identification and intervention is the key to avoiding the escalation of ‘mere conflict’ into alienation and the devastating impact on children (regardless of age).

We heard from our local well-known Psychologists Dr Jenni Neoh and Ms Lisa Bottomley in particular about their respective intervention programs for complex family matters.

We often work with families facing experiencing particular difficulty with their post-separation parenting – with young and old children. We will be recommending Jenni and Lisa’s very special approaches to these clients in the hope of achieving an early and effective resolution.

The AFCC website provides a wealth of excellent resources, including conference papers http://afccnet.org.au/ . You may like to consider becoming a member.

We continue to offer a free initial telephone consultation to your clients in need of family law advice – they simply need to call us on 1300 635 529 or email enquiries@mflaw.com.au to book a time for one of our family law specialists to speak with them.

And remember, we’re always happy to help you out with any questions you may have. Stay in touch,

Vanessa and the Team at Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists

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

Separation and Divorce at Christmas

The following informative article about coping  with separation and divorce at Christmas was published by Relationships Australia www.relationships.org.au

Resources

For some people, Christmas can be the most stressful time of the year. People can feel increased financial pressure from the costs of buying gifts, entertaining and holidays, and there can be increased strain from spending time with family members. For those people with complex family situations, such as separated families, Christmas time can present even greater challenges. Stress, anxiety and depression are common feelings over the holiday period.

There are some practical things you can do to prevent stress at Christmas

  • If someone close to you has recently died or you are unable to be with your family and friends, acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to feel sadness and grief and you can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  • If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  • Sometimes expectations around family gatherings may make you uncomfortable or stressed. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
  • Try to accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion and be understanding if others get upset when something goes awry. People under stress often ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. Try to remember that drugs can’t solve problems or alleviate stress in the long term.
  • Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget. If you have a large circle of extended family or friends to buy gifts for you might be able to suggest a change in the way your family and friends give presents. For example:
    • Buy presents only for the children.
    • Have a Kris Kringle, where everyone draws a name out of a hat and buys a present only for that person.
    • Set a limit on the cost of presents for each person
  • Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. If you plan your menus and activities you may avoid the stress associated with last-minute or forgotten tasks.
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Most friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits. Overindulgence can add to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
    • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
    • Get plenty of sleep and regular exercise.
  • Take time out for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:
    • Taki