Disclaimer: There is a current proposal for parliament to amend the law in relation to Family Law and the below information may change. We therefore advise you to seek the latest advice from your lawyer.
What is The Purpose of Shared Parenting Arrangements
Shared parenting arrangements have increasingly become the norm as courts aim to act in the best interests of the child. In Western Australia, shared parenting seeks to ensure that a child has a meaningful relationship with both parents post-separation or divorce, as long as it is safe and in the child’s best interests.
In Western Australia, the Family Court Act 1997 (WA) and the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) govern matters related to child custody and parenting arrangements. These acts stipulate that the child’s best interests are paramount in any decision-making.
- Equal Shared Parental Responsibility: This doesn’t necessarily mean equal time, but rather an equal role in making decisions about major long-term issues for the child.
- Meaningful Relationship: The law encourages both parents to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child, as long as there are no safety concerns (e.g., family violence).
Types of Arrangements
- Equal Time: Parents split time equally with the child. This is often a week-on, week-off arrangement but can vary.
- Substantial and Significant Time: One parent spends less than equal but still significant time with the child. This usually includes weekends, holidays, and other key events in the child’s life.
- Primary Custody: One parent has the child most of the time, and the other has visitation rights.
Factors considered include:
- The child’s age and needs
- The distance between parents’ residences
- Parents’ work commitments
- The child’s schooling and extracurricular activities
- Any history of family violence or neglect
Mediation and Conflict Resolution
Before taking the matter to court, parents are usually required to attempt mediation. In Perth, there are several mediation services available to assist families in reaching an agreement.
Modification and Enforcement
Circumstances change, and parenting plans may need to be reviewed and modified. Enforcement orders can be sought if one parent does not comply with the arrangement.
How a Family Lawyer Can Assist
- A family lawyer can provide an understanding of how the Family Court Act 1997 (WA) and the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) apply to your situation.
- They can explain legal jargon, key concepts, and what the law states about the child’s best interests.
Drafting Parenting Plans
- A lawyer can help draft a detailed parenting plan that outlines the responsibilities and time each parent will spend with the child.
- This document can be legally binding if both parties agree, thereby providing a foundation for any future legal proceedings, if necessary.
- Lawyers can prepare clients for mediation, offering advice on negotiation tactics and what to expect.
- In some cases, the lawyer may attend mediation sessions to ensure their client’s interests are adequately represented.
- If the matter escalates to court, a family lawyer can prepare the necessary documents and represent the client in hearings.
- They can also assist in presenting evidence to support your case, such as proving that the proposed parenting arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
Enforcement and Modifications
- If one parent is not adhering to the agreed-upon or court-ordered plan, a family lawyer can assist in enforcement.
- They can also help request modifications to existing orders if circumstances change, such as a job relocation.
When to Involve a Family Lawyer
Dispute Over Custody
- If both parents cannot come to a mutual agreement regarding shared parenting, it’s advisable to consult a lawyer.
Concerns for Child’s Safety
- If there are concerns over the child’s physical or emotional well-being while in the care of the other parent, legal advice should be sought immediately.
Complexity of Assets
- If there are complex issues related to property or financial matters affecting the child’s welfare, a family lawyer can offer specialized advice.
- If one parent wishes to relocate with the child, especially interstate or internationally, legal advice is crucial.
- If an existing order is not being followed, a family lawyer can guide you on the necessary steps for enforcement.
Questions to Ask
Here are common questions you will likely want to know the answer to to get clarity.
Before Meeting with a Perth Family Lawyer
- What are my primary goals for the shared parenting arrangement?
- What are my concerns regarding the other parent’s involvement?
- What is my child’s current routine, and how might this be disrupted?
- What are my work commitments, and how will they impact the parenting schedule?
- What is the difference between “equal shared parental responsibility” and “equal time”?
- How are child custody cases typically resolved in Western Australia?
- What steps can I take to improve my chances of a favorable custody arrangement?
Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
- What does the mediation process involve?
- Is mediation mandatory before taking the matter to court?
- Can a lawyer represent me during mediation?
- Will child support be required, and how is it calculated?
- How do financial considerations impact shared parenting arrangements?
- Will I need to contribute to costs like schooling and healthcare?
- What measures are in place to ensure the safety and well-being of my child?
- What happens if there are allegations of family violence or abuse?
- How are emergency situations handled in shared parenting plans?
- What documents will I need to prepare if the case goes to court?
- How long does the court process usually take?
- What happens if a court order is violated?
- How often can a shared parenting arrangement be reviewed or modified?
- What happens if one parent wants to relocate?
- How does remarriage or a new partner affect shared parenting?
- How can I best prepare my child for a shared parenting arrangement?
- What resources are available for children to cope with separation or divorce?
- How can I maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship for the sake of my child?
Understanding shared parenting arrangements is really important so you have clarity and direction and stability going forward which helps not only you but your children cope with the changes that separation brings. If you would like to talk about arrangements for your children, please get in touch with Clairs Keeley Family Lawyers.