Where your children live and how much time they spend with each parent is often the most important and stressful process in any divorce. To have the best chance of success in getting the parenting orders that you want there are a few ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.
There are no set outcomes when it comes to parenting Orders because each family and all children are different. The Court has to make Orders that they believe are in the best interests of the children. Nowadays parenting orders will set out who children will “live with” (previously known as “custody”) and how much time they will spend with the other parent (previously known as “contact”).
If you have separated and are in Court proceedings for parenting matters there are a few things you can do that will help your case.
1. Don’t involve your children
It can sometimes be very tempting for parents to ask the children who they want to live with, to talk about the Court proceedings with them or discuss what the other parent is doing or saying. Involving the children in these adult issues is very damaging not only for your children’s emotional well being but it will be looked upon very poorly by any Judge hearing your case. If the children are old enough (late primary/secondary school) then their wishes will be one of the matters taken into account in terms of working out their living arrangements. The way the Court would usually do this is to get an experienced psychologist or counsellor to speak with the family (including the children) and make recommendations about proposed living arrangements in a Family Report. It can be hard to not involve the children especially if the other parent seems to be discussing the Court case and issues with them. But remember a parent who does this are likely to be criticised in the Court proceedings and it is likely to damage your chances of getting the parenting orders that you want.
2. Comply with Court orders
Often parents are faced with the Court making Orders in parenting Orders that they do not agree with. This might be to attend a “Parenting after Separation” course, to attend upon counsellors, to obtain assistance with any drug/alcohol issues (including performing hair/urine screens) or even spending supervised time with their children. Sometimes you may feel frustrated that you have been asked to do these things that you do not believe you should have to do. If you want the best chance of getting the parenting Orders you want then you need to comply with all the Court orders, even if you don’t agree with them. You will have a much better chance in Court if you have done everything the Court has asked you to do. If you want to try and change the Court orders then you need to get advice from an experienced Family Lawyer rather than just ignoring them.
3. Be child focused
If you are asking the Court for the children to live with you or spend a lot of time in your household, then you need to be realistic about your proposals. You need to show the Court that you have thought about it from the children’s point of view. This means that you will need to set out the “nitty gritty” of how it would work for them living with you. Think about things like before and after school care, travel time to school, can you get them to extra curricular activities, what other family/friends have you got to rely upon if you need help, maintaining the children’s friendship groups, getting them to and from part time work or other activities. Children and teenagers need stable and secure living arrangements. The Court will want to see that you have thought about all the important aspects of the children’s day to day lives and how you would make that work if they lived with you.
4. Maintain a civil (and if possible friendly) relationship with the other parent
If you are in the middle of a custody battle, parents often see each other as the enemy. One of the worst things you can do in Court proceedings, is to show hostility, aggression or anger towards the other parent. This could lead to the other party taking out an Intervention Order against you or for it to be used as evidence against you in any Family Court proceedings. Most importantly, if this happens in front of the children it will be very damaging to their emotional well being. The Court will look favourably upon a parent who is trying to make the co-parenting situation as amicable as possible. This means communicating respectfully with each other, being flexible with parenting arrangements (eg if the other parent has a special family function they want the children to attend during your time – if you can then let the kids go), keeping each other informed about important things to do with the children’s lives – issues at school or health. Even if you feel that you are being amicable and you are getting nothing back in return – it is still going to be better for your Court case and more importantly the children’s well being if you keep trying.
5. Behave yourself in Court
If you have Family Law proceedings you may need to go to Court on a few occasions and at the end you will have a trial if you haven’t resolved your case. The Trial is where the Judge gets to see and hear from you and make a determination about whether the children should live with you/ your ex partner or in a shared care arrangement. Both you and your ex partner will need to give evidence and any other relevant witness. You should always be respectful not only to the Judge but to the barrister/solicitor representing your ex-partner. Don’t become aggressive or frustrated. Answer the questions calmly and truthfully. Make eye contact with the Judge. If you have to admit that you could have done something a better way – admit it. The Judge is more likely to believe you on other matters, if you make appropriate concessions. Even when you are not giving evidence, the Judge will be observing you when you are sitting listening to the other parent. Make sure you listen respectfully and make notes for your barrister to talk to in the break. Do not roll your eyes or make comments. Court proceedings are very stressful but you mustn’t let your emotions overwhelm you.
There are many aspects to running a successful parenting matter. Client’s need experienced and strategic advice. If you would like advice on your Family Law matter and want to “Know where you stand” please Contact Pearsons Lawyers for your free consultation on Tel: 1300 699 688