Sometimes parents cannot reach an agreement in relation to the arrangements for their children and Court proceedings are required to resolve their differences.
There is mediation available during the court process. If the matter cannot be settled during the course of the proceedings a Judge will make a decision at final hearing.
The Court will apply the parenting provisions of the Family Law Act 1975 in reaching a decision.
The Court will look at what is in the best interests of the child(ren) and will consider the benefit of each child having a meaningful relationship with both of his or her parents. The Court also considers the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm and from being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence. If there are concerns in relation to the latter, then the need to prevent the child from being exposed to any unacceptable risk or harm is the priority.
In some parenting matters before the Court it is appropriate for the Court to appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer to act in the children’s best interests.
An Independent Children’s Lawyer does not obtain instructions or act as the child’s lawyer as such but rather is independent of each parent. They will form their own view and undertake their own assessment in relation to issues concerning the child, gather information in relation to the circumstances surrounding the child and any underlying issues, and make submissions and recommendations in this regard.
In some parenting matters extra evidence may be required, such as expert medical or forensic psychiatric evidence, all of which must be taken into account by the Court deciding what Orders are appropriate for the child(ren).