Helping to Restore Balance
Personally and Professionally
Registered Professional Counsellor | Supervisor |
Nationally Accredited Mediator (NMAS)
Australian Family Law is principally found in the federal Family Law Act 1975. Other laws are also referred to which affect the family and the relationship between those people, including when those relationships end.
Family Law centres around the representation of clients in relation to family break down, divorce and related issues like the financial and property distribution, any parental responsibilities, custody and support, and ongoing financial support to the family, particularly any children.
More and more it is being encouraged for parties to come to an agreement on arrangements without going to courts, which can be extremely costly and time consuming, often having to wait lengthy periods of time to have decisions and orders made.
The aim is for amicable agreements that are in the best interests of everyone and not a point scoring practice.
A mutually agreed Parenting Plan can help to meet many of the needs of the children at this very difficult time, and also help provide the very important need of stability and consistency in the relationship between parents and their children, as well as clarifying the arrangements towards the care of the children.
The parenting plan can be amicably drawn up with me together or in separate sessions. The parenting plan will place the best interests of any children first and foremost, and sometimes consider the wishes of the children, which can be dependent on their age and other factors that will be determined at the time. There are a number of areas of care that can be covered in the parenting plan and we can work these out together as part of the process. The term of the parenting plan can also be negotiated so there are mutual review periods built into the plan and these can dependent on the individual and any needs at the time.
In drawing up the parenting plan, it should also be noted that the Family Law Act focuses on the rights of the children and the responsibilities that each parent has towards their children, rather than on parental rights. The Act aims to ensure that children can enjoy a meaningful relationship with each of their parents and are protected from harm.
Where parents are unable to agree on any care arrangements for their children, then you may need to have the Family Court make such decisions and issue a Parenting Order. This can be a long and drawn out process and often does not allow the very important need of stability and consistency in the relationship between parents and their children, or clarifying arrangements towards the care of the children.
Where domestic violence and/or a history exists, or an AVO is in place or pending, the parenting plan may not be suitable and should be determined on a case by case basis.
I would be more than happy to work with you and have a mutually workable parenting plan in place, as these do not have to be set up by a legal representative.
Parenting and Family Breakdown
Maintaining a relationship with your children can be challenging after separating from your spouse or partner. It will mean focusing on the children rather than your ex-partner and aiming to be parents together rather than a married couple or partners.
Separation is often a time of conflict between adults and exposure to ongoing conflict can be damaging for children.
There are things you can do to help your relationship with your children, even if you are living some distance away.
- Take an interest in their daily routines, friends and interests.
- Phone calls can’t replace being with your children, but they are a great way of staying in touch. Try ringing at regular times so your children can expect and look forward to your calls. Find a time when they will be relaxed and not expected to be doing homework, eating dinner, rushing out to sports practice, etc.
- Regular short chats are also OK. Call sometimes just to say goodnight, share a joke or tell them something funny that happened to you, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
- Think about what you are going to say before you pick up the phone. For example you could arrange to help with homework or even sport practice through encouragement over the phone. Ask what they have been doing since you last spoke. Keeping notes in a diary or calendar can help. Ask them about how they are feeling as well as what they are doing. You don’t need to have instant solutions to their problems, just listen to what they say and be supportive.
- You can also stay in touch through letters and cards which not only show you are thinking of them but can also be a good way to express what you find hard to say.
- SMS messages through mobile phones are fast and cheap, if your children have access to such media.
- Young children love to hear their parents’ voices. Consider recording yourself on audio perhaps reading their favourite book or singing songs you both like.
- If you can, and it is appropriate, get your children online so you can both email to tell you what they are up to. You will probably find out things they don’t talk about over the phone or in person.
- You can also be involved with your children’s lives through their school and sporting events. Ask your child’s school to send you copies of newsletters, school reports and notices. You can also consider helping out in the classroom and attending your children’s events as much as you can. Your children will love to see you involved.
- When your child comes to stay, let them help plan your time together. Remind them of any special things they may need to bring and when you will see them next.
- Try to avoid using your children to pass messages onto the other parent.
- It can help thinking of your child as having two homes, one with Mum and one with Dad. If you move to a new house consider living close by, within cycling distance of school if possible.
- Avoid hassles about the basics and keep things at your place like toothbrushes, clothes and medicines.
- Give them time to settle into living at your home.
- They may go through ’emotional jet lag’ each time they move between homes. Involve them in the routine of the house. Sit down with them and make a list of the meals they would like.
- Make a shopping list and do the shopping together.
- Get them to help with the cooking.
- Read to them, watch TV or videos together and talk about what you have seen. Do things with family and friends like visiting grandparents and cousins. Have the kids bring their friends over.
- A hug, kiss or a playfight are all ways to say that you love them.
This is not an exhaustive list, rather hints and suggestions that focus on the relationship between you and your child as this is of paramount importance to them, and a fundamental part of their growth and development.
Please find some further information in the links below:
Collaborative Law in the Family Law Jurisdiction
Negotiations are carried out almost entirely in joint meetings attended by both clients and their lawyers. The process also allows for the parties to engage experts such as counsellors, child experts, valuers, business coaches, accountants, financial planners and the like, to assist the parties in areas requiring expertise. These experts work impartially as part of the settlement team to help the parties make decisions on an informed basis.
Many couples benefit from the Collaborative Family Law process as it is quite unique.
- It has a more solution focused approach, where the focus is on the parties coming to agreements together
- More often than not it promotes and encourages better communication together rather than the perhaps fight and win approach, because this alone drives emotion and can destabilise your ability to make informed decisions.
- In working through the process, you are able to make your own decisions together rather than having decisions imposed upon you through the litigation or court process. Far too often when these types of imposed decisions are made, they may not always be mutually agreed upon or in everyone’s best interests.
- It is a lot more cost effective as the fees are set and explained from the outset, you know what to expect and don’t have to worry about mounting costs throughout the process – because let’s face it you will have enough to think about.
- The Collaborative process is also so much timelier as there are no delays in having to work through the litigation or court process, in fact, some Collaborative processes are finalised in under 12 months.
So many clients benefit greatly from the Collaborative process as they are not left waiting for months and sometimes years through litigation and courts, which can extend the emotional journey – something not healthy for anyone, and often exacerbating emotions.
Having a Collaboratively trained Counsellor available throughout the process provides you support you so often need from someone who understands the process of Family Law and who can attend to the emotional issues that will arise from time to time, all in a confidential and supportive setting.
If Collaborative Law sounds like something you would like to pursue, then each party will need to seek out a properly trained Collaborative Family Law specialist.