Did you know that if you are seeking orders for access in time for Christmas there is a cut-off date for filing a Parenting Orders application in the Family Court?
Every year, the cut of date is 4.00 pm on the second Friday of November.
This year, for parenting orders in time for Christmas the application must be filed by 4.00 pm on Friday 9 November 2018.
For tips to help you and your child cope with the pressures of the holiday season, read: First Split Family Christmas? How to minimise the emotional kick in the guts
Attempting mediation before court
There are some cases in which an exemption may be allowed, for example, if there is an unacceptable risk of family violence.
The object of the FDR is to try to resolve issues regarding any matters relating to parenting and thereby avoid the matter going before the courts.
Ideally, the mediation would be successful, and you would then opt to have your agreements formalised into Parenting Orders by Consent or alternatively, record your agreements in a parenting plan or sign a parenting agreement. While useful as an indication of your agreed intentions, neither a parenting plan or parenting agreement is legally binding.
Only an accredited FDR practitioner can issue you with a 60i Certificate which will allow you to make an application to the court for a decision on parenting matters if you are unable to reach agreement through mediation.
Booking an FDR appointment
Accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioners are in high demand and wait times can be several weeks. To give yourself the best chance of reaching resolutions invite the other parent to attend FDR as early as possible before the holiday period.
For many parents, it is confronting and stressful to engage in this form of dialogue about their children. Often one person is more emotionally prepared than the other, or one or both parents may attend the mediation with unrealistic expectations or without having taken expert advice from child specialists or a family lawyer. My recommendation as a mediator is to consider accepting from the outset that to reach full agreement on all of the issues relating to your co-parenting arrangements, you may need to attend more than one session of mediation and allow extra time to do so.
If you consider the time and energy taken to erode the relationship to the point of separation, it is perhaps unrealistic to expect that it will not take a lot of effort and several discussions to find a workable path through the aftermath. My personal feeling is that putting in this work and making more than one attempt where both parties are agreeable, is far more constructive than dragging each other, and most importantly, your children, through the stress and torment of the court process.
I believe that resolving your differences through mediation allows for a better ongoing and more civil co-parenting relationship between the parents than aggressive litigation.
When you have reached agreement through mediation, the next decision is whether or not to formalise your agreement with consent orders.
Applying to Court for Parenting Orders
For some families, the flexibility of a parenting plan or a signed agreement, which can fairly easily be revisited and renegotiated as the child develops and their needs change, offers a better ongoing solution than parenting orders.
Unfortunately, there are scenarios in which the attitude or behaviour of one or both parents precludes any chance of mediation success or adherence to informal agreements and those families may be better served by proceeding to court for orders.
If this applies to your situation and you do not file your application before the cut-off date, of Friday 9 November 2018, there is no guarantee of receiving Parenting Orders before the end of the year.
If you are applying for Parenting Orders in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, there is no set cut-off date. However, as this court also becomes extra busy towards the end of the year, there is no guarantee your matter will be considered in time to get orders made before the holiday period.
You are advised to seek an expert legal opinion from a family lawyer about what the court might consider and the implications of any orders sought as well as child specialists as to what may be in your child's best interests before making your decisions or filing your application.
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The information in this article is general in nature and should not be considered as professional advice. You should seek the advice of an accredited professional who will be able to appropriately assess your specific circumstances before offering their expert opinion.