Child custody arrangements

Depending on individual circumstances, parenting arrangements can vary widely. In negotiating these arrangements, it is important to acknowledge both the responsibility and the care of the child.

During divorce, creating appropriate child custody schedules can be a chore. But there are great benefits in looking at common joint custody arrangements to provide more direction and help reach an equitable outcome.

Negotiating an equitable custody schedule

In situations where equitable 50/50 schedules are explored; important needs must be considered to ensure smooth transition and feasibility within sharing the timetable. Parents can actively make conscious decisions to promote regular visits and ongoing contact.

Firstly, exchanges with parents who live fairly close together is easier. As the children grow up, switching between the parent’s home can be handled independently. Divorce cases where both parents are committed to putting their child’s interest first, work out best. This dampens opportunities for parents to communicate with each other without fighting as outcomes are objectively focused on their kids. Courts only make orders about parental custody when the parents are unable to agree about child arrangements.

In addition to a schedule during school periods, a separate custody calendar can be created during holiday periods that adjust the time each parent spends with each child. To help balance the time percentage, some parents even include a third-party time when they are either in school or at day care.

Best interests of the child

In understanding child custody arrangements, all court decisions are made upon the best interests of the child. In clearer terms, the Family Court of Australia desires to promote and sustain parental relationships. This also involves keeping the child safe from harm.

Understanding parental responsibility

The custody of a child can be both physical and legal. Legal custody refers to the ability to make major life decisions for the child. We refer to this as parental responsibility. Regarding parental responsibility, the 1975 Family Law Act defines the term as being “all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children”. On the other hand, physical custody means the child spends time living in the home of that parent.

Parenting orders

Before you file for divorce and go to court in Australia, a series of pre-action procedures need to be completed. In cases where mutual resolution is not possible, attempts to resolve any disputes before filing any court orders will need to be made. If a resolution is not possible, the next step is to attend a family dispute resolution centre. This process is known as mediation.

Any issues relating to children and child custody fall under the 1975 Family Law Act. Parenting orders can be applied for by anyone concerned with the welfare of the children. Usually relatives but in some cases an appointed carer including those within a de-facto relationship.

When resolving any disputes, two separate hearings are normally conducted, an interim and a final hearing. Reaching a settlement outside of court not only saves you money but can relieve significant burdens of time and stress.

The first interim hearing usually takes place about two months after initially filing the court application. Written statements, known as affidavits, are read and used as evidence.

Unlike the final hearing, these interim hearings are not designed to resolve any issues or allegations. There is no cross-examination to determine who is telling the truth. The initial interim hearing is designed to firstly protect the children from harm, placing them in an appropriate short-term arrangement, and to facilitate the maintenance of the current parental relationship until the final hearing.

Depending on the circumstance and prior arrangements, it can actually be a year or longer before the final child custody hearing takes place. The different parties then make submissions to the judge. Only after considering and weighing all the evidence, will a judge decide on the child’s custody and make other important relevant arrangements. This order stands until the child is 18 years old or until another court order has been made. Once a parental order has been made, it is legally binding. A later amendment can be made, and any interim orders are void when the final order is given.

Seek professional guidance

Child custody arrangements can be complex to navigate. Get professional help and stop trying to fuss with the nit-picky details yourself. If you value time with your child, invest in a family lawyer at O’Sullivan Legal today.