Negotiating parenting arrangements
A key role of the collaborative family lawyer is to assist parents to negotiate arrangements for the ongoing care and wellbeing of their children. This process of determining who children will spend their time with, formerly called child custody or child contact, is now more commonly referred to as parenting arrangements.
Parents of children under 18 are considered to have shared parental responsibility. This means that each parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions about the care of their child. This includes things such as choosing where a child will live, their medical care and where they will go to school. It should be noted that occasionally, and only in extreme cases, a court may award sole parental responsibility if it is considered to be in the child’s best interest to do so.
It is a common misconception that children splitting their time 50/50 between each parent is the default situation. There is no law or rule that states that children must spend equal amount of time with each of their parents. Rather, the Family Law Act 1975 states that children have a right to a meaningful relationship with each of their parents. It should also be noted that the Family Law Act is considered gender neutral and therefore does not make any judgements about traditional parenting or gender roles, ie. Assuming children are best served by spending the bulk of time with their mother.
Structuring parenting arrangements
Children’s care and time with both parents can be structured in any number of ways. This may be determined by the new living arrangements of each parent, their work commitments, children’s school or sporting commitments and of course, the preferences of the child. Parenting agreements can also be structured to include the desire for grandparents, step parents or significant others in children’s lives to spend time with them. Other details covered may include the method by which parents will contact each other, how children are to travel between one parent’s home and another, attendance at significant events such as parent teacher interviews or birthday parties or any other details considered important.
The collaborative law approach
A collaborative law process encourages and supports parents to reach agreement under the shared parental responsibility model. As we discussed in a previous blog post, parents may choose to negotiate parenting arrangements themselves and have their agreed arrangements documented in a parenting plan. This approach, although ideal, does require a degree of commitment to putting the children’s needs first. Your collaborative lawyer can support you through this process.
This Parenting Plan document is not legally binding, however, should agreed arrangements break down and need to be addressed in court, the contents of the plan will be taken into consideration. The collaborative law process always tries to avoid having to go to court to determine parenting agreement.
At Umbrella Family Law we can support you to negotiate and formalise parenting arrangements for your children.
Working with our extensive network of psychologists and financial planners we can assist you to formalise arrangements that reflect the best interests of your children.