When parents decide to go separate ways, child custody becomes an issue. Often, parents become concerned about spending birthdays and holidays with their minor children. If you have recently divorced your spouse, know that each parent is responsible for a child until he or she reaches the age of 18. This responsibility is not affected by your change in status, whether you divorce or remarry.
In the event that both parents are not able to settle parental responsibilities among themselves, the court makes orders on the arrangements for their children, also called a parenting order. It may include one or more of the following information:
- Which parent the child shall live with
- How much parental responsibility will be allocated
- How much time the child can spend with each parent as well as other people such as grandparents or guardians
- How the child will communicate with the other parent he or she will not live with
Before going to court, parents are advised to participate in pre-action procedures such as attending a “Family Dispute Resolution Conference”. Undergoing this process requires less time, money and emotion. This allows parents to come up with a solution that is long lasting and less “destructive” for the children. While coming up with a settlement outside of court is ideal, it is not advisable if there has been an issue of family violence or child abuse.
The Australian Parliamentary Family Law Act of 1975 discusses the legislation that oversees separation, divorce, financial maintenance, and parenting arrangements involving couples and children.
Here are some important points you need to know:
- The mother and the father, whether separated or divorced, will take responsibility for the financial upkeep of the children.
- Adoptive parents retain equal rights with biological parents.
- Responsibility is shared 50/50 but there are instances when parents’ rights are revoked due to a history of violence or abuse.
- The child cannot be separated from a parent if it is against his or her will.
- The residence of the child shall be chosen in accordance with his or her best interest.
- If the child’s parents decide to live in different countries, the child maintains the right to have direct contact with both parents. Both parents are also obliged to cooperate to provide the child with free access to the country, as well as exit whenever necessary.
- Unless otherwise dictated by the court, both parents have equal responsibility, custody, powers, and duties to a child.
Child custody ends when he or she turns 18, is married, adopted, or begins a de facto relationship. The court may only extend the order when the child needs additional support to finish education, or due to mental or physical challenges.
Seeking Legal Help
Not all lawyers are custody experts. Most lawyers find an area they focus their time and attention to. The best family law attorney may have an excellent reputation but if he is into divorce cases, yours may not be his favorite. With that said, it is best to get a custody expert for the best results.
Most lawyers will offer a free initial consultation to get an understanding of your case and give you appropriate advice. This is also an opportunity for you to determine whether the lawyer will be able to meet your needs.