After undergoing separation, if you and your partner cannot agree on a parenting plan for your child/children, the case may have to be resolved by a judge. Under Australian law, both parents are responsible for taking care of their children until they turn 18. However, parents may dispute over who should remain in custody of the child during this time.
Most attempts to resolve child custody disputes will begin with a mediation process. This is a mandatory non-court process that is facilitated by mediators and held in consultation with your lawyers. The goal is to try to arrive at a parenting plan using a less costly and time-consuming channel. However, if this mediation process fails, the matter will end up in front of a family law judge.
Filing for a court case
In most cases, you can only file for a court case if all attempts at family dispute resolution failed. By applying to court, you are essentially mandating the judge to provide parenting orders that both parents will have to agree with.
A family lawyer can assist you in determining if a court hearing is in your best interests. After filing, you will receive a court date that you and your partner will be required to attend in front of a judge.
The actual hearing
During the court hearing, you will be required to present your argument in front of a judge. Depending on the nature of the case, a lawyer can do this on your behalf. It is a good idea to gather all the evidence you need to use in order to argue your case. These documents can include financial documents, previous court orders and police reports.
On the day of the hearing, come prepared to take notes and to communicate clearly with the judge. If your child will not be required in the courtroom, arrange for someone to take care them while you're away. Be prepared to spend at least half a day in court, if not longer.
Remember that as the applicant of the hearing, you will be the first to present your case and the direction that you would like to receive from the judge.
After both sides have presented their arguments, the judge will weight the arguments presented and deliver a set of orders. These orders are the parenting orders. They will determine many different elements of the case, such as who the child will live with, how much access the other parent will get to the child, and what parenting responsibilities each parent will have.
Parenting orders may also cover issues such as child support payments and welfare. Parenting orders are legally binding and have to be adhered to by all parties.