Overview of Family Law (Children's Issues):
Sometimes when parents separate, they need the asisstance of the Court when they are unable reach an agreement in regards to the parenting of their children. In making decisions regarding parenting disputes, the Family Law Act requires a Court to regard the ‘best interests' of the child as the most important consideration. Parents must also use this principle when making parenting plans. When you first meet your lawyer, you will be given information on what consistutes "the best interests of the child" in the eyes of the law.
Steps towards resolving your dispute:
There are typically 6 steps involved in resolving parenting disputes:
Family Dispute Resolution
Before commencing a child related proceeding in the Family Court, you must attempt to negotiate a settlement outside of the court. This is called Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution (mediation). In certain circumstances (for example, where family violence is a concern) you can apply to the court for an exemption from attending Family Dispute Resolution.
Applying for a parenting order
If an agreement is reached through the mediation process, you and the other party may enter into a Parenting Plan or apply to the Family Court for a Consent Order. If no agreement is reached, then either party may make an application to the Family Court for a Parenting Order. At this stage, you should engage your lawyer to give you advice on the resolution that suits you and your children and to ensure you have the best possible case going forward with your application.
First court appearance
When either party files an application in the Family Court of WA, you will generally be listed for a hearing before a magistrate and will be assigned a Family Consultant who will attempt to assist you to resolve your dispute.
You may be required to attend multiple hearings before the Court is ready to make a Final Order parenting order. After each hearing you attend the Court will provide you with information regarding what you will need to do before your next Court appearance. The Court may make interim (temproary) orders (if they are sought) which are legally binding, but will not become final orders unless both parties and the Court agree. These are particularly important in instances where a child is being withheld by a parent, or is being mistreated.
The Trial occurs when the Court is ready to decide the Final Order. The Court will provide you with the opportunity to state your case and submit evidence. It is vital that you have presented an accurate well prepared case prepared by your Lawyer. At the conclusion of the Trial the Court will make a Final Order for your case.
The Court Order
A Court Order is a legally binding document; you can apply to the Court to have the Order enforced if someone breaches it. From here you have obligations and consequences for breaching those obligations.
For more information regarding your children and your family law matter, please contact us.