Why is it important to reach a formal agreement - living separately and parenting together?
Certainty is key to a happy and calm life. There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing what the arrangements will be for drop off or pick up.
An agreement lets your children know that they are important enough to both of you to respect them by giving them a predictable routine when they can be sure that they will spend time with each of you.
Types Of Negotiation
Discussion between the two of you
If you have an amicable separation quite often couples can discuss and agree on an arrangement for the children. Once the agreement is reached, Stanfords can help you by turning your agreement into a form of orders that the Court will approve.
A Family Law Mediator is a professional trained in assisting separating couples work there way through all things parenting! You have the choice of using a government funded Family Relationship Centre or a Private Mediator. Our client’s generally prefer a Private Mediator as the process can be started very quickly and a Mediation arranged within a month.
At Mediation parties can focus on their future and what that will look like for each of them.
Engaging a Private Mediator allows you to take your Family Lawyer with you to Mediation so you can have the support and on the spot legal advice about the options discussed during the Mediation. Sometimes it is also possible for the Agreement to be drafted by us during the Mediation saving you further time and money.
This is a process where the parties and their lawyers work together to reach an outcome. The partie and lawyers sign an agreement that prohibits those lawyers continuing to represent the parties if the matter does not reach an agreement and the parties file an application in Court.
The reason is to show commitment by all parties to reaching an agreement amicably. This process allows everyone to work together to reach the best outcome for both of you.
The benefit of the Collaborative method is that other professionals such as counsellors, financial advisors and accountants can be included to help with the tricky questions that the parties and lawyers do not have expertise in.
Parties and lawyers can discuss all sorts of things that are important to each family’s individual circumstances. Things like who will take children to and from training, who will pay certain accounts, who will keep the paperwork or arrange for medical appointments for the children, should you use a parenting app to keep track of all of the birthday parties, sporting events and medical appointments. These are all important things to you, but not really the focus of a Court.
How it works
The parties and their lawyers have a series of meetings, usually between 3 and 5 where the important things in relation to where the children will live and how they will spend time with each of you. Everyone is in the same room and receives legal advice from their lawyer in the presence of the other party and their lawyer. It seems a bit funny at first, however the liberating thing about it is that no one thinks anyone is being tricky or hiding anything.
Parenting agreements can be documented in two ways, via a Parenting Plan or via Consent Orders made by the Court. Parenting Plans are not “binding” but are a great way to make short term plans, especially for younger children whose needs change very quickly. In most circumstances we advise our clients to opt for Consent Orders.
Prior to filing an application with the Court seeking parenting orders, parents are required under the Family Law Act to participate in Family Dispute Resolution, also known as Mediation or FDR. The Act envisages that most families will be able to reach an agreement without the need for a Judge to intervene and make that decision for them.
Judge’s have long and very busy Court lists.
After you file an application with the Court seeking that a Judge determine a dispute between you both, you will be allocated a first return date, usually within 6 to 8 weeks. After that date, it may be 2 years or more before a Judge hears your case in full. There will be many mentions on the way where the Judge or a Registrar make “directions” for each of you to do certain things, but they won’t hear your evidence or argument for a long time.
Many of our client’s in the past have described living in this limbo as “hell”. They struggle dealing with their ex emotionally and usually feel totally overwhelmed by the lack of control that they have over the process.
Once the Judge has heard your case, it can take between 3 and 12 months for their final decision to be handed down, known as the “judgement”. Your potential time in Court can be up to 3 years.
There are specific considerations that the Judge must take into account when making a decision and those considerations focus on the best interests of the child or children, not the parents. Parents have obligations towards their children. Parents do not have “rights”.
If you find yourself in a situation where Court is the only option, our experienced Family Law team can help you ensure the path is as smooth as possible and support you every step of the way. Our team will take every opportunity available to negotiate a settlement that sees you exit the Court system as soon as possible.
CALL US TO DAY TO SEE HOW WE CAN HELP YOU