A separation between parents can have a significant impact on the welfare, and the day-to-day life of children.

Where possible, it would always be advisable to quickly come to a mutual agreement regarding the arrangements for the care of your children following a separation.

It is important for children to maintain a consistent routine, and where appropriate continue to have an ongoing relationship with both parents.

Family Violence

If a separation from your partner involves family violence it may not be possible to come to a mutual agreement regarding parenting arrangements. If there is the presence of family violence, we suggest that you immediately seek legal advice and if necessary, contact the police.

Getting agreement on parenting matters – 5 (actually 6) different ways

1. Coming to a mutual Agreement regarding parenting matters.

On the basis that you feel safe to do so, it is okay to come to a mutual agreement with your former partner regarding parenting arrangements for the children.  As family lawyers we often refer to this as the “kitchen table resolution”.  This is where the parties meet to discuss, and hopefully agree on what arrangements need to be put in place for their children after separation.

2.Coming to a mutual agreement regarding parenting matters with the use of a respected family member and/or friend.

If you feel uncomfortable negotiating directly with your former partner, it may be that you and your partner know a family member and/or friend that you both respect who may be able to assist with your negotiations. 

This respected third party can act as an “umpire” in any discussions between you and your former partner regarding parenting arrangements. Having the presence of a third-party, hopefully reduces the emotional and stressful nature of such discussions.

3. Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)

Similar to option 2 above, the parties can engage a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) and arrange a family dispute resolution conference (similar to a mediation). 

Relationships Australia, Family Relationship Centres, and appropriately trained solicitors can offer family dispute resolution for separating couples. 

Family dispute resolution is similar to mediation and involves both parties attending upon a FDRP, who will assist the parties in negotiating, and hopefully coming to a resolution regarding parenting matters.

FDR sessions can also be by way of a shuttle conference, where each party is in a separate room, and the FDRP moves backwards and forwards from room to room. This means that you not always required to be in the same room as your former partner.

4. Mediation with solicitors

If you have not been successful in negotiating a parenting arrangement with your partner, and if it is not suitable to try any of the above options, then parenting arrangements can also be discussed between you and your former partner and each party’s respective solicitors.

This Mediation would involve all four parties (the separating couple and their respective solicitors) and can be held on neutral ground.  The parties and their respective solicitors can negotiate and hopefully come to agreement regarding parenting matters.

Collaborative legal processes - similar to Mediation the Tonkin Legal Group also offers a service known as “Collaborative Law”.  St.John Heath of our office is a collaboratively trained lawyer. Collaborative law, as the name suggests enables the separating couple and their respective solicitors to work collaboratively (together, as opposed to working against each other) to negotiate parenting arrangements. This legal model also enables us to involve child experts i.e., a psychologist, if there are specific children’s issues to be addressed.

5. Filing an application with the Court

In the event the above options are either unsuccessful or not appropriate it may be that you would need to make an application for parenting arrangements through the Court.  While this should always be the last resort, some matters do require Court intervention.

Reaching Agreement re Parenting matters

In the event that you are successful in reaching agreement with your former partner regarding parenting matters, this arrangement should, in most cases, be formalised.

You can formalise parenting matters by way of a Parenting Plan, but such a Plan is not enforceable.

We always recommend that you formalise your parenting arrangements by way of a Court Order, which is enforceable.

If agreement has been reached regarding parenting arrangements with your former partner, it can be a simple process to formalise your agreement by way of Consent Orders, which are lodged with the Court by mail. Neither party, nor their solicitors, are required to attend at Court.

Watch our free on-demand webinar on parenting arrangements

If you want to learn more about parenting arrangements with your ex-partner following separation, watch our new, free on-demand webinar "Agreeing on Parenting Arrangements" which explains how to agree on child-focused parenting arrangements with your ex-partner.