DBH Family Law Senior Associate, Arthur Koufalas, shares the top five things separated parents need to know about child custody laws.
Terms such as “child custody”, “child access”, “sole custody”, “joint custody” and “visitation” have been replaced with “lives with”, “spends time with”, “primary parent” and “primary carer” respectively.
It’s not about the parents
The intention of the Family Law Act 1975 is to ensure that the best interests of children are met, not what is in the best interest of the parents. So whilst you might think that a 50/50 shared care arrangement is fair for you, it is not necessarily in the best interest of your child.
Parental responsibility does not mean time
There is a presumption that both parents have equal parental responsibility. Parental responsibility does not mean equal time. Parental responsibility is the ability for parents to make serious long-term decisions for the child/ren such as what school they go to, their religious upbringing or medical treatment and the like.
FDR is compulsory
FDR stands for Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) which is sometimes called mediation.
If you can’t work out an arrangement with the other parent yourself, then before you can issue proceedings in the Family Court, you must attempt FDR.
Should you and the other parent fail to reach an agreement at FDR then you will be issued with a certificate.
Unless you have a good reason, like family violence or urgency, the Court will refuse to accept an application unless it is accompanied with a certificate.
You’re not alone
There are many groups and community organisations that are there to help parents who are having a difficult time or who are struggling with the Court process.
Search the internet for Mums or Dads support groups. Attend a post separation parenting course put on by someone like Anglicare. There is a good chance that someone else has or is going through what you are going through. You just have to ask for help.
Your lawyer should be able to direct you to these various bodies and organisations that can help in your area.
For more advice about the child custody laws, contact one of our experienced family lawyers via our contact page or call 1800 324 324 for a no obligation interview.