If you're working out your child custody arrangements a parenting plan could be the answer
Virtually nothing about getting divorced is easy, but making child custody arrangements can be particularly difficult for everyone involved. While protecting your parental rights is important, it can be all-too-easy to get caught up in fighting with your ex and forget who your parenting arrangements are supposed to be about! But what you have to remember is that at the end of the day, parenting arrangements aren’t about either one of you – they’re about what’s best for the kids.
When it comes to child custody, Australia’s family law system encourages parents to work together to make arrangements, but sometimes this just isn’t possible, and sometimes the court really does need to become involved, especially if there are safety issues at stake. In most other instances though, your whole family is probably going to be better off if you can work together to create a parenting plan. Working out how to put your parenting plan together can be complicated, but most of the time it’s going to be much easier, cheaper and faster than taking it to court … and as an added bonus you also get to have the flexibility of being able to alter your arrangements to suit the changing needs of your kids.
Of course, working things out together does mean that you’re going to have to be able to negotiate with each other, and there are two things to bear in mind when it comes to these negotiations: the kids don’t need to be involved, and even if you need to get the help of a mediator to work things out it’s still likely to be less expensive than going to court. Plus, if you do decide to go to court one of the first things that you’re going to have to do is attend a mediation session, so it’s probably worth doing it now and seeing if you can come to a resolution before you go to the expense of getting solicitors involved!
If you’re struggling with the issue of child custody, help isn’t usually too far away. The Family Law Courts website is a great resource that can help to point you in the right direction, and Relationships Australia also has a wealth of child custody information, helpful resources and support services that should be able to help.
If you find that you just can’t work things out on your own, and you can prove that you have seen an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner, the court will allow you to apply for a parenting order. This will be a legally binding order, and the court can force both parents to comply with the parenting arrangements it specifies. Although there are going to be some circumstances where going to court is necessary – particularly if you believe that your children’s safety is at risk – having formal orders handed down to you by the court isn’t always going to be your best option. Going to court is usually very expensive, and the orders that are created are enforceable by law and unable to be legally changed for two years unless there are extenuating circumstances (and being unhappy with the arrangements doesn’t count). Essentially, asking the court to sort out your parenting arrangements means putting your life, and the lives of your children, into other people’s hands, so if it’s at all possible, it’s almost always going to be preferable to come to an agreement between yourselves.
Divorce is never easy, especially if there are children involved. But there are things that you can do as a parent to make the whole process a little easier on your kids. Working together with your ex might not sound appealing, but when you consider the benefits (being able to avoid a costly court battle or expensive solicitor intervention) and add in the bonus of being able to show your kids that you’re willing to work together because you both still love them, it really can be worth it. So before you decide to get the court involved in your parenting arrangements, stop and think about whether it’s worth giving it one more go to work things out between yourselves – even if you need a little extra help, it’s probably going to be far better for everybody than heading to court will ever be.
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Tags: divorce and separation, divorce in Australia, child custody, child custody information, parental rights
Analaura Luna is an author, wealth adviser and founder of Your Family Your Money. Your Family Your Money’s goal is to simplify traditionally complex financial strategies, demystify financial jargon and debunk common financial myths, becoming every family’s first stop for financial advice, information and inspiration.