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It is a fundamental principle of family law that, except in exceptional circumstances, it is in the interests of a child to regularly spend time with both parents. The issue between parents is usually about how to sort out which parent the child lives with and how and when the child gets to spend time with the other parent.

How do you sort out issues about children?

The best way to sort these issues out is to talk to you ex-partner and reach an agreement. It is wise though to get independent legal advice before you do that so you know exactly where you stand.

What happens if you reach an agreement?

If you reach agreement with your ex-partner it is advisable to get the Family Law Courts to make an order that reflects what you have agreed. The benefit of a court order is that, if your ex-partner doesn’t stick to the agreement, you can go to court to have the agreement enforced. We can draft the paperwork for you to get a consent order.

What happens if you don’t reach an agreement?

If you don’t reach an agreement with your ex-partner we can apply to the Family Law Courts for orders to be made to determine the arrangements for your children. Except in exceptional circumstances such as when the matter is urgent or there is domestic violence, you are required to attend at Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) with a mediator before going to court to try to come to an agreement first. If the mediation and negotiations don’t resolve things, the case is referred to the waiting list for a trial. Because that list is long, you may have to wait for over a year until your trial takes place.

What happens to your child or children in the meantime?

The court will often make ‘interim’ orders about your child while you and your ex-partner wait for the trial. Those interim orders can be very important, because once you get to trial one of the things that the court will consider is the ‘status quo’ – the current situation. If your child is happy and settled with the interim arrangements the court may be reluctant to make changes to those arrangements. That is one of the reasons it is important to get legal advice early.

Are there time limits?

You can make an application to the Family Law Courts for orders to be made about children’s matters at any time. If your circumstances change, or your ex-partner’s circumstances change, you can reapply to the court for existing orders to be changed or new orders to be made.

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