The use of the terms ‘custody’ and ‘access’ relating to children in the Family Court have been used for many years but have become somewhat redundant in recent times.
In 2009, changes to the Family Law Act replaced the concept of ‘custody’ with ‘parenting’, to better reflect the emphasis on court orders being in the best interests of the children and not the parents.
Judges have firmly reinforced that it is the children who have the rights in a parenting dispute, not the parents. Parents only have responsibilities to act in the best interests of the children. A key right of children is to a ‘meaningful relationship’ with both parents, not the other way around. It is not a right of the parents.
Parents still need to exercise authority over their children as part of a normal parent-child relationship. But, where the parents cannot understand responsible exercise of authority as an obligation instead of a right, the Court will take it out of their hands. The Court will usually appoint trained psychologists and counsellors to interview the parents and children and prepare a ‘Family Report’ for the Court. These reports can be costly, so those parents willing and able to negotiate an agreed position on parenting responsibilities can avoid those costs.
If you find yourself in a parenting dispute, it is important to obtain advice and guidance from a knowledgeable, experienced source. The CLO Lawyers family law team are experienced in guiding parents through the challenges you may now be facing as you negotiate appropriate parenting arrangements for your children.
We will support you in reaching an agreement with your former partner where possible because of the advantages of a negotiated resolution in:
- Making your own decisions;
- Greatly reducing the financial and emotional costs of legal proceedings;
- Supporting your continuing relationship as parents;
- Moving forward and making a new life for yourself;
- Potentially improving communication with your former partner, which will enable you to better resolve any disputes in the future.
Litigation is a last resort but we will pursue this course in circumstances requiring decisive direct action.