Ideally, when a relationship ends, the couple should be able to make their own arrangements for the parenting of their children. After all, they raised the children, they know them better than anyone else, so they are the best people to sort our where the children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. Right? Yes, of course, and in most cases, parents are able to make those arrangements, whether they share the care of the children – for example, a week about, or whether they live primarily with one parent and spend alternate weekends, perhaps some time during the week, and half the school holidays, with the other parent.
These arrangements can be formalised by the parents entering into a written Parenting Plan, or Orders made by consent in the Family Court. However, Parenting Plans can’t be legally enforced – only a Court order can do that.
So, let’s assume that Mum and Dad have worked out how much time the children will spend with each of them, once they separate and are living in separate homes. Then one of the parents decides, for whatever reason – they, or the children, aren’t happy with how it’s going, there are allegations of family violence, one parent (or the children) don’t like the other parent’s new partner. The parenting arrangements break down and the children’s’ time with the other parent is restricted or stopped altogether. What to do?
If these issues can’t be resolved by the parents talking to each other, to try to reach a resolution, the advice that Family Lawyers give is to seek mediation. Mediators are trained and experienced in helping couples achieve mutually agreed solutions to these problems. There are usually no lawyers present at the mediation and what is said there is “privileged” and cannot be used if the matter later goes to Court. While people sometimes think that mediation won’t help, because the other parent is entrenched in their position, the reality is that over 75% of mediations are successful.
If agreement is reached at the mediation, that can be incorporated into a Parenting Plan (but remember they aren’t enforceable), or Court orders by consent. Your Family Lawyer can explain how to go about getting those orders.
If the mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator will issue a Certificate, under the Family Law Act, to enable one of the parties to issue an Application in the Family Court, to ask for the parenting orders that they want. Except where there is urgency or some other exceptions, you can’t apply to the Court for Parenting Orders without that Certificate from the mediator (unless the Orders are to be made by Consent).
So, mediation is the way to go if you and your ex can’t agree on how much time the children will spend with each of you. The following are three mediation services in the Melbourne metropolitan area:
Family Relationships Centre 9404 7800
79 Grimshaw St, Greensborough
Mackillop Family Services 8398 6800
Level 1/232 Plenty Rd, Preston
Relationship Matters 1300 543 396
And, of course, our Family Law Team are always ready to help you.
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.