Blog post by Daniel Sampson
In almost every case of the breakdown of a family relationship, the first thought of a party is what will happen to my relationship with the children. It is usual that parties can make arrangements for the care and welfare of the children by themselves or with the assistance of family or third parties. There are however, times where the animosity between parties can be such that they cannot agree with respect to care arrangements for the children, or there are differing views as to what is the best for the children.
Even rarer, are situations when a party will unilaterally withhold the children with good reason. There can be valid reasons for withholding children from another parent, such as the threat of an act of physical or emotional abuse or violence. However, where no such risk is evident a party has the right to see the child when it is in the best interest of the child. The current approach of courts is that baring any serious threat to the child’s health and welfare, parents have the right to time with their children.
Unless the matter requires the urgent intervention of the Court, parties are required to participate in Mediation conducted by a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. The mediator helps parties to come to an agreement with respect to the children and discuss any areas of conflict.
If the parties can reach agreement they can draft a parenting agreement or seek that their agreement be made into Court Orders, binding them both to the agreement. This would be filed and approved by the Court if it is appropriate in the Court’s view.
If there are threats to a child’s safety or welfare you should make enquiries with the Department of Child Protection or otherwise make an urgent application to the Family Court.
Applying in the Family Court
If mediation fails, the parties will be issued with a Certificate confirming they have attempted mediation. This will allow either party to file an Application.
The Application can be for a spend time arrangement on an urgent basis by seeking an interim Order. This will mean that, if there is sufficient evidence in support, the Court may track the matter to an urgent hearing for interim time with the parent who is not currently having time.
You may be required to attend a Case Assessment Conference with a Family Court psychologist, so that they can make recommendations to the Court as to the proposed care arrangement.