When parents are unable to reach agreement on parenting responsibilities, they can be left in a situation where there is no certainty about the children’s future living arrangements. This situation is then often made worse when special occasions are not far away, such as Christmas, school holidays or the children’s birthdays.
Unless there is some urgency to your matter, or mediation is not appropriate for some reason (such as a history of family violence), it is mandatory for parties to attempt to resolve their parenting dispute via mediation before initiating Court proceedings.
If you want to have formal time spending arrangement in place for the children before Christmas, you now need to consult a solicitor URGENTLY.
You may have heard that there was a deadline of 10 November 2017 for filing Applications in the Family Court of Australia for matters to be listed before Christmas.
This means that unless the Application for Parenting Orders was filed at Court prior to that date, there is no guarantee the Application will be heard before Christmas.
There is no deadline however, for the filing of Applications in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
Again, the Federal Circuit Court is usually extremely busy at this time of year and therefore, there is no guarantee the matter will be heard before Christmas.
If you have missed the filing deadline, what can you do?
Parents are still able to attempt to resolve their parenting dispute through solicitor negotiation or by mediation.
Keep in mind however, that at this time of year, mediation services are usually extremely busy and the waiting periods may mean that you are not able to get an appointment for mediation until the New Year.
Further, even if you can get into mediation, if an agreement is reached, this will be reflected in a written agreement known as a ‘Parenting Plan’. Parenting Plans are not legally binding or enforceable.
Therefore, if you want the certainty of a legally binding and enforceable parenting arrangement in place before Christmas, we would suggest that you instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf to negotiate the terms of the parenting arrangement.
This arrangement can then be formalised by way of Consent Orders.
Obtaining Consent Orders entails filing an Application to the Court and a Consent Minute of Order setting out the Orders sought.
Again, as the Court is extremely busy at this time of year and the deadline for filing has now passed, it is important to act on this as a matter of urgency. If you delay, you may not get Consent Orders in place until next year.