Separation can be a difficult and stressful process. When children are involved, one of the most difficult tasks is coming to an agreement with your ex-spouse or partner about time arrangements.
If you go to court, the judge will evaluate many factors in forming any decision about children. In most circumstances, it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. This is a primary consideration in all court decision-making.
So how can you make this process easier without going to court?
Court is not appropriate for all situations. If you can formalise an agreement with your ex-spouse or ex-partner, and there is no risk of harm issues, then you should avoid court and the unnecessary costs and burden of the process.
A parenting plan is a written plan created to manage the parenting arrangements of children. It can cover things like the time arrangements spent with both parents, day to day care, changeovers, special occasions, schooling and medical arrangements.
One of the best features of a parenting plan is its flexibility. It is not always easy to see into the future. The fact that parenting plans can be changed by consent of both of the parties at any time enables parents to have more control over the process and flexibility to change the plan when the child’s circumstances change.
Parents should think of Parenting Plans as a private contract between the parties that can be amended at a later date without the need to go to court. For example, certain time arrangements around work or care may change when the child starts school.
The flipside to parenting plans is that although they provide more flexibility, they are not enforceable if a breach of the agreement occurs. If you have concerns about substantial breaches in the future then you should seek legal advice and consider other alternatives.
Another alternative to court is consent orders. The parties can agree to a set of orders and ask the court to make it legally binding. Consent orders put a greater emphasis on both parties to comply with the orders, as there are punitive penalties for not doing so.
If the orders are approved by the court, the consent orders are stamped with the court seal. If any substantial breaches occur, the parties must attend mediation first and then can issue proceedings thereafter if mediation is unsuccessful unless an exception applies like cases involving family violence, child abuse or urgency.
You should always seek advice early to make time arrangements easier for you and your children in the long run.
MDV Family Lawyers can provide advice on the best option to suit your circumstances and can draft or finalise your parenting plan or consent orders to ensure that the agreement you come to serves its intended purpose.
Get in touch with us by calling 02 4421 7455, emailing [email protected] or book online now to further discuss whether a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders is the right choice for you and your children.