At no point when you get married or announce the arrival of a child do you consider that one day it might end up in a family law dispute? This is simply a fact of life, and statistics will tell you that you are not alone here, with many families looking for an alternative to an unhappy marriage. Why wouldn’t they?
This can be an incredibly stressful time, which is why family lawyers are so valuable in taking on that burden and representing your best interests. If you are just starting this journey and looking for the signposts, let’s discuss what the roles and responsibilities are of a family lawyer and how you can be prepared to aid them in this next chapter.
The interests of the child(ren)
You are no doubt pursuing these measures so that you can create a peaceful and practical home life for your child or children, as this should be the priority of all parents. Your family lawyers in Melbourne also share this desire and will act in accordance with the interests of your children.
Under the Family Law Act 1975, the court will make the best decision for the child and is required to be gender-neutral and not make any assumptions about family roles. A mother does not have an advantage over a father, as each of these individuals is a parent and will be viewed only as such.
The law dictates that every child has the right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, provided they can do so without harm. If you head into a courtroom or a discussion with your lawyers, don’t assume that they will make a decision solely based on what you believe to be black and white – as there are more than two people to consider this arrangement.
Equal shared parental responsibility
Given the Family Law Act 1975, a family lawyer has the role to walk you through what shared parent responsibility looks like and why this should be the base you are striving for. This requires parents to make decisions together and co-parent in a way that allows both parents to influence the interests and direction of their childhood.
This applies to long-term decisions only, and not the day to day decisions. If the court decides that shared parental responsibility is not what is best for the child, then parents must adhere to ‘Substantial and Significant Time’, which still honors the parent who is not a sole caregiver so that they can build a relationship with their child. This will look different for each family but could be a case of having the children each weekend or every other weekend.
Circumstances can be subject to change
Parents entering into negotiations with family lawyers should know that circumstances can change. A ruling is not necessarily going to be the final word, as parents can appeal decisions and apply for more parenting responsibilities.
If this is the case, your family lawyer will be contacted by your partner’s lawyer, and discussions may start again. It’s important to remember that even if the parent in question has a greater case the second time around, the ruling will still fall in favor of the child, and their current living circumstances may be taken into account so that disruption is not caused.
There is a lot to take in here, and it’s hard to set a definitive time on these processes as each case has its own set of complexities to consider. As a general rule of thumb, when you are being represented, try and refrain from communicating often with your partner as this may go against the interests of your family lawyer.