Have you recently separated? Are your children in the care of the other parent? Do you want to spend more time with your children? Read on to find out what your rights are and how to spend more time with your children.
Separation is a difficult and emotionally turbulent time. Children and parents are going through all sorts of changes to their family dynamic and environment. In an ideal world, you and the other parent are able to communicate civilly and respectfully with one another and maintain an amicable post separation parenting relationship. In an ideal world, you and the other parent are able to agree on the future living arrangements of your children.
Unfortunately, these ideals are not always reality.
How to spend more time with your children
Until there is court order/consent order in place which creates legally binding obligations on both parties in relation to the living arrangements, care and welfare of your children, neither parent has legal rights to require the other parent to facilitate time with the other parent.
When you have a disagreement with the other parent as to the time that you spend with your children, you must therefore pursue a court order as soon as possible in order to create some legally binding obligations on both parties which enable you to spend more time with your children.
Our step by step guide – how to spend more time with your children
Arrange a kitchen table talk with the other parent
If you are amicable and on speaking terms with the other party, we suggest you have a sit down discussion with them about the children’s future living arrangements. It may be wise to have a third party present to mediate the discussion and encourage you to speak civilly to one another. The kitchen table discussion is often quite effective at resolving disputed issues or at least narrowing the issues in dispute. If you reach agreement or narrow the issues with the other parent prior to seeing a lawyer, this will save you money by reducing the amount of work your lawyer needs to do for you.
Schedule a Mediation
If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent about your children’s future living arrangements, the next step is mediation. You are required to attempt mediation first and make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute, before you can apply to the family law courts for a parenting order.
You can arrange mediation one of two ways, either through Relationships Australia (a free public service) or through a private mediator (fees paid by you). The benefit of choosing a private mediator over Relationships Australia, is that you can usually have a mediation set up within a couple of weeks, in contrast to a couple of months or longer, if you go through Relationships Australia.
You do not have to have lawyers present at the mediation. It is entirely up to you. Mediations’ which are run through Relationships Australia are not designed to have lawyers present.
Apply to the Court
If your mediation is not successful, you have the right to apply to the Federal Circuit Court for a parenting order in relation to your children. You must attach to your application a copy of your section 60I Mediation certificate which you will receive following your mediation, as proof that you have attempted mediation first, before applying to the Court.
The best interests of the children is the primary consideration of the Court, when deciding what parenting order it is to make. For a list of the factors the Court considers in determining what is in the best interests of the children, check out our page on Children.
The process of applying for a parenting order is lengthy and costly. It will generally take 6 to 8 weeks before your application is listed before the Court. It will take anywhere from three months to three years for a final parenting order to be made by the Court, depending on whether you and the other parent can reach an agreement prior to a Final Hearing, in which case the court can put their stamp of approval on it. If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, your matter will proceed to a Final Hearing.
For more information and explanation of the court process when applying for a parenting order, check out our page Court Process.
Make your agreement legally binding
If you are able to reach an agreement with the other parent at Mediation about how to spend more time with your children we recommend that you have your lawyer draw up the agreement as either a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order.
Check out our page on Children which details the difference between a Parenting Plan and a Consent Order. In most cases, we recommend a Consent Order, as it is legally binding, whereas a Parenting Plan is not.
Whether you and your ex partner are amicable or not, it is in your interests to reduce any agreement to writing as it provides certainty for both parties and reduces the likelihood of disputes arising with respect to the living arrangements of the children in the future.
Why use a lawyer?
As lawyers experienced in this process we can advise you in regard to the complexities of your specific situation as well as guide you through what can be a stressful and confusing process. We can help take the heat out of a difficult emotional situation and negotiate on your behalf to obtain the best possible result for your children. And if it comes to court, we are deeply familiar with the court system and can use our experience to your advantage.
We trust this article has given you some incite as to how to spend more time with your children.
Contact us today to book a reduced rate initial consultation with one of our family law experts to have a confidential discussion about your individual circumstances. Let us help you resolve your parenting dispute as quickly and cost effectively as possible, so that you can have a meaningful relationship with your children.