The best interests of the child is paramount in the decision making process of the Family Court of Western Australia. There is, of course. a procedure that is followed which includes a number of counselling sessions which also include assessing the child’s wishes. Depending on the circumstances and age of the child, the weight of their wishes are given more or less consideration.
There are many factors which the Court will take into consideration before making a decision including, the best interests of the child, the nature of the relationship with each parent, the attitude of the parents and their responsibilities to the child and the impact on the child’s life of change.
Child abuse allegations and the need to protect the child are taken extremely seriously and will be a high priority consideration if they are made.
What types of arrangements are taken into consideration by the Family Court?
There are many case specific considerations including:
- Where the child will live
- Spending time with the child (contact)
- Holiday arrangements
- Schooling and extra curricular arrangements
- Financial support
How do we make the agreement enforceable?
The agreement can be made by Form 11 Application for Consent Orders or by a Minute of Consent Orders if the matter has been in court. The matter may also go to a trial if it is an ongoing dispute. This means that the agreement is enforceable and if there is a breach of the agreement the matter can again come before the Family Court.
Can we change an agreement once it has been made in Court?
The agreement can be changed if circumstances in the lives of the parties or the children change. An application to vary the orders can be made.
What if we can’t agree on any arrangements?
If an agreement cannot be reached by mediation, counselling or informal negotiation then either parent can commence proceedings in the Family Court. If the matter proceeds to trial then both parents will have an opportunity to put their case forward before a Judge as to why their proposals are better than the other parent. However, the process of getting to trial and the process of the trial itself can be very costly and stressful.
Before the arrangements are determined by a Judge, what happens to the children’s arrangements?
Throughout the Court process there will be some temporary arrangements put on place until the final decision is made by a Judge. These arrangements are usually made within a short time of an application for interim orders is made.
Mediation and Counselling
The Family Court of Western Australia encourages parents and parties to a family law dispute to obtain counselling to assist in making a consented agreement. Various government and private organisations provide a place for mediation and counselling to take place to assist parents to make appropriate arrangements for their children.
See the links section for further information about children’s matters.