When a couple separates and decides to divorce, it’s a difficult emotional time. The property settlement process begins and it can be a challenging period. A divorce can be especially hard when there are children involved. You require the services of a child custody lawyer to help you come to a child custody agreement that works for all parties. 

What Is Child Custody? 

Child custody relates to which parent cares for their children when, and how that is arranged. 

A court will always aim to do what is in the child’s best interests. The age of a child and their relationship with each of their parents are factors the court will consider. Special needs or risk issues will also be taken into consideration. In certain cases, the court may want a report from a mental health professional or social worker. 

How Does Divorce Affect Child Custody? 

If you are going through a divorce, then a child custody lawyer can help you with your child custody arrangement. They will provide you with the advice you need to work out an agreement that works for everyone, especially your children. 

How Does a Parenting Plan Play A Part In Child Custody? 

A parenting plan is a useful tool, but it is non-binding. It’s a practical arrangement parents put in place to ensure their children spend an adequate amount of time with each parent. There are typically more flexible arrangements that revolve wholly around the needs of the children involved. It is suitable for some circumstances, but you can pursue a Consent Order, which makes that plan binding. A binding agreement is far preferable in the majority of situations because it keeps everyone honest and engaged. And there is recourse if one party fails to follow through on the agreement. 

Australian law holds that both parents share equal responsibility when it comes to parenting their children. The result is that both parents have to make decisions, together, about education, religious upbringing and medical treatment. 

That being said, both parents having equal responsibility in terms of parenting does not necessarily translate to equal time. The court may prefer to assign one parent as the legal guardian with primary physical custody. There aren’t set rules for how parenting time is split. The ideal scenario is that both parents can come together to work out an agreement that works for everyone. The key is to ensure children can maintain a relationship with both parents. If you can do this together you can avoid court except to have your parenting order approved. If there is difficulty agreeing on financial responsibilities, you can pursue a child support assessment from the court. Parents share financial responsibility, no matter where children live. 

If you cannot agree on how best to split your time with your children, you can attend dispute resolution before you pursue your case in the courts. A mediator can provide you with assistance as you try to work out a plan that works for everyone. 

One major factor considered during child custody arrangements is family violence. This is a risk issue, and if there is a history of it in the home, the court may place caveats on that parent’s time with the child. It could be supervised visits, or it could also require that this parent attend counselling. In this case, mediation is not an appropriate path forward. 

Benefits of Seeking Legal Help 

Going through a divorce is emotional, it’s a tumultuous time and children often feel lost in the shuffle. They love both parents, so it’s important that you avoid discussing your former spouse negatively when in front of your children. Don’t pressure them to speak poorly about the other parent or offload your emotional burden on or around them. 

The benefit of seeking legal help when dealing with a child custody situation is that you will have a legal professional providing you with advice. They can advise you as to whether a non-binding agreement is a right option for your family at this moment or whether pursuing a Consent Order is more appropriate. You want an expert to look after your best interests, but it’s important that they also factor in your children’s best interests. 

How AJB Stevens Can Help 

If you need a child custody lawyer in Sydney, AJB Stevens can help. We can assist you with pre-filing procedures, mediation, parental responsibility orders, and consent orders, and of course, provide you with court representation if no agreement can be made following mediation. We can also offer assistance with your divorce – from gathering supporting evidence to drafting the application for divorce, and representing you in court. While a divorce impacts child custody, child custody arrangements are a separate process to divorce. 

Get in touch to schedule a consultation and discuss your case with a member of our team. We can also provide video conferencing or visit your home if you have a busy schedule.