Children's Matters and The Family Law Court Melbourne
The Family Law Act stipulates the best interests of the child as the most important consideration when deciding on a child's living arrangements to be made when parents separate.
When making a Parenting Order in relation to a child, the Family Court will apply a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child's parents to have equal shared parenting responsibility for the child. For further information on this refer to our article Parenting Orders and the Presumption of Equal Shared Parenting Responsibility in our Articles & Cases section.
Equal shared parental responsibility is different to equal parenting time, which refers to the time which children spend with each parent. Equal shared parenting means both parents have a say in making major long-term decisions about the children. Such major long term decisions would usually include medical issues, the type of education a child is to receive, and religious and cultural matters. Day-to-day decisions, such as what clothes the children wear or what they have for breakfast, are not categorised as major long-term decisions.
Often when parents separate, the most difficult problem to resolve is determining how much time a child should spend with each parent. The court assesses whether it is practical and in the best interests of the children for them to spend equal time or ‘substantial and significant time’ with each parent. It is usually seen as beneficial for both parents to have a meaningful involvement in the different aspects of their children's lives including during the week, on weekends, on holidays and on special occasions.
There is no defined age when the law allows children to decide which parent they would like to live with or spend time with. A Court will take into account a child's wishes but there is no obligation on a Court to follow those wishes in reaching a decision concerning that child. When making parenting orders, the Court does not usually hear directly from children. However, a child's views can be brought to the attention of a Court through an Independent Children’s Lawyer or through a Family Report prepared by a Family Consultant such as a Psychologist. A Family Report may be ordered by the Court to assist the Judge better understand the issues in dispute, and the family relationships generally, with the assistance of a child-focussed professional. The role of an Independent Children’s Lawyer is to represent the child's interests in a case and to assist the Judge in deciding what arrangements are in the child’s best interests. The Independent Children’s Lawyer does not "take instructions" from the child but is bound to ensure that the child's views are put before the Court.
Resolving Disputes about Children
Save under exceptional circumstances, the Family Law Act requires you to make an attempt to resolve disputes about parenting matters using Family Dispute Resolution Services before applying to a court for a Parenting Order. We are able to assist you in taking this step. If you fail to reach agreement about either the future arrangements for your children, then you will need a lawyer to prepare a Court Application on your behalf. The Court Process will still enable you to resolve your dispute using court assisted mediation and further negotiations, but if this fails a Judge will ultimately decide what is best for your children after considering all of the evidence at a Final Hearing.
If you have a Children’s Matter and want to receive the best possible outcome for your child or children, you need to seek expert advice.
The Australian Child Support Scheme is designed to ensure that both parents contribute towards the costs of raising a child. If you are the parent of a child, you have the legal obligation to financially support that child even if you and the child's other parent were not married or living together.
The Child Support Scheme is administered by the Australian Government through the Child Support Agency.
Child Support is calculated using a complex formula. When assessing Child Support in accordance with this formula, the Child Support Agency considers:
- Both parents' income;
- If any other children are being supported;
- The ages and costs of raising children (based on the combined income of the parents); and
- The amount of time each parent cares for the children ('care levels').
Sometimes, as an alternative to the child support formula assessment some parents wish to reach their own private arrangement that contains the amount of child support to be paid, in what form, and how it should be paid.
When we advise you on your case, we are usually able to provide you with an estimate of Child Support payable in your particular circumstances.
Melbourne Family Lawyers have extensive experience in Children's Matters including:
- Resolution of disputes regarding Parenting, Residence (custody) and Time Spent with either parent (contact, access or visitation)
- Agreements on Residence, Shared Residence and Contact
- Contested Court Hearings
- Child Abduction (including international cases involving the Hague Convention)
- Cases involving relocation of children's residence to interstate or overseas
- Paternity Disputes
- Advice on Child Support issues
- Child Support Agreements
- Child Support Applications
- Child Support Trusts
For further Specialist Family Law advice, call Melbourne Family Lawyers today for an appointment on +613 9670 9677.
Established in Melbourne since 1985.
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