Negotiating Parenting Arrangements – Without Going To Court

You know your child better than anyone else which is why it is important to attempt to resolve any dispute with your partner parent without having to go through the Court process – which can be very slow and costly.

Once agreement is reached, you can formalise the agreement in two ways:

1. A Parenting Plan which is an informal and flexible document. This can include all aspects of the care of the child to avoid any confusion or uncertainty in the future. It can be revisited and easily updated by agreement between the parents; or

2. Parenting Orders which is a formal document. This is binding and enforceable and is required to be complied with. There are consequences of non-compliance with Parenting Orders. Parents can agree to vary the Consent Orders by agreement between themselves or they can enter new Parenting Orders if required.

There are various ways that you can engage with the other parent to attempt to resolve your parenting dispute such as:

  • Government funded organisations such as Relationships Australia offer Family Dispute Resolution services.

Parents who are hoping to secure a flexible parenting arrangement can use this service without the requirement of having a lawyer. A Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner acts as a mediator to assist in the negotiations. It is a cost-effective way to resolve or minimise the issues in dispute without engaging lawyers; or

Depending on your facts and circumstances, Family Dispute Resolution may not be appropriate, particularly if there are family violence issues. If agreement is reached it can be formalised by way of a Parenting Plan prepared by the organisation, or the parties may wish to engage a lawyer to prepare Parenting Orders; or

  • A private mediation.

This is where you engage a lawyer or a professional mediator to assist in facilitating the negotiations. If agreement is reached, some mediators will provide an additional service where they prepare the necessary paperwork to formalise your agreement whether by way of a Parenting Plan or Parenting Orders; or

  • Legally assisted mediation.

This is where you both engage a lawyer to assist you in the negotiations who can then work together with you both to formalise the agreement reached; or

  • Collaborative law.

This is where you both engage with collaboratively trained lawyers who are only engaged to help you reach and formalise an agreement and if no agreement is reached, the lawyers acting in the collaboration cannot act in any court proceedings and must withdraw if proceedings are commenced. This is to ensure that all parties are actively involved and engaged in the process of negotiation with the cost consequence of having to engage new lawyers if the negotiations are unsuccessful.

There are no right or wrong ways to attempt to resolve your parenting dispute, however it is advisable to obtain legal advice prior to attending any form of negotiation in order to understand your rights and obligations.

Most cases resolve without needing to commence court proceedings, however if all attempts at reaching agreement have failed, it may become necessary to engage in the Court process.
The Court system actively promotes and requires parties to engage in settlement discussions and requires the parties to engage in Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) prior to commencing proceedings, with some exceptions, including:

1. If the parties are unable to participate in FDR due to circumstances of urgency;

2. If there is a history of family violence or abuse of the child;

3. If there are geographical issues that make it difficult to attend FDR.

At Nolan Lawyers we actively engage in all forms of negotiation through mediation, collaborative law and by way of corresponding directly with the other parent or their lawyer. We have had great success in achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients without having to commence proceedings. We believe it is important that as parents, you make the decision for your child not a Judge who will be required to determine your child’s living arrangements until they are 18 years of age, yet will never get the opportunity to meet your child before making such a significant decision.

If you need advice about what option is right for you, contact Nolan Lawyers today.