Family Therapy and the Family Court Proceedings

At Perth Family Lawyers we are acutely aware that Family Court proceedings can be very stressful for everyone involved. Parents often find it extremely challenging to continue to co-parent in the midst of long and often highly conflictual parenting disputes. At times, during such proceedings, the children may refuse or become resistant to spending time with one of the parents.

Family therapy may serve as a powerful tool to help parents learn how to promote their children’s relationship with the other parent in a way that also promotes the children’s best interest and wellbeing. Family therapy can also provide the parents with insight into their own acts and views and help them improve their parenting skills. Family therapy can be reportable and non-reportable.

Reportable Family Therapy

Reportable family therapy is where the parents and the children (if it is appropriate for the children to be included) engage with a suitably qualified therapist to discuss the relationship between the children and their parents and its breakdown. The parents are advised from the get-go that the therapist will report to the Family Court about what was said and can provide the court with his or her observations and recommendations.

Reportable family therapy may be agreed upon between the parties, or it can be Court ordered.

Reportable family therapy is a method for the Court to gain realistic insight of the issues and dynamic of the family. With such input, the Court is better equipped to make orders progressing the matter towards its resolution, and which are in the best interests of the children.

The downside of reportable family therapy is that the parents and/or the children may not feel they can really lay their cards on the table, being aware that anything said could be reportable. Accordingly, they may not “truly” engage in the process and attempt to resolve issues.

Non-Reportable Family Therapy

Non-reportable family therapy is where the parents and the children engage with a therapist in a confidential setting. This means that nothing said during therapy can be disclosed to the Court (subject to mandatory reporting).

Non-reportable family therapy can be something the parents (and their children) attend of their own volition. The Court can also order non-reportable family therapy, if the Court is of the view that it would assist the parents and promote the children’s best interest.

Non-reportable family therapy can provide parents and children with an opportunity to openly speak about the experience and feelings, and attempt to find the best way to function as a family and support the children. This can be done without fear that anything said could be perceived negatively by the Court or reported to other family members, so the parents and the children are encouraged to be completely open.

Non-reportable family therapy, however, may not be the best option where it is important that the therapist be provided with the court documents and information to provide effective therapeutic intervention. In such circumstances, non-reportable family therapy may be of little value for the family if it is not going to achieve change.


Family law experts (and the Family Court) have recognised that additional support and guidance from a qualified family therapist can achieve amazing results for families experiencing estrangement or relationship breakdown between a parent and a child. However, all families are different and unique, and parents should carefully consider whether family therapy is appropriate for them, and whether it should be reportable or non-reportable.

With our niche experience in the family law space, we can guide you through such considerations. If you are thinking about commencing family therapy, call our office on (08) 9325 8675 and we will be able to provide you with legal advice and best way forward that supports you and your children to achieve the best outcomes.

Escaping Violence Payment

In late 2021 the Government began providing anyone leaving a violent relationship access to a one-off payment of up to $5,000 to assist them in establishing a violence-free life.

The Hon Anne Ruston announced a two-year Escaping Violence Payment trial, during which a person fleeing a violent relationship can receive up to $1,500 assistance in cash, with the remainder available for goods and services, direct payments or bonds, school fees or some other form of support.[1]

The payments are aimed at breaking the financial barriers, noting that financial hardship often stops a person from leaving.

Minister Ruston stated:

“We know that financial hardship as well as economic abuse, which may involve interfering with work or controlling or withholding money, reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships.”[2]

The payments should therefore provide the victims of intimate partner violence (partner violence includes physical and emotional abuse, financial abuse, coercive control, etc.) who decide to leave the relationship with some financial security.

UnitingCare Australia Consortium is the service provider delivering not just the payments – UnitingCare can also provide supporting persons to engage with other appropriate services capable of supporting the victims and their children. UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said:

“The UnitingCare Network has extensive experience supporting victim-survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence and staff would leverage that knowledge to provide a wrap-around service for women and their children.” [3]

Importantly, Escaping Violence Payment does not constitute a taxable or reportable income, and has no impact on any other social security payments. Persons eligible for Escaping Violence Payments are those who can show financial stress and provide evidence of domestic violence, for example, a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, a restraining or other court order or a police report.

The payment is available to:

  • An Australian citizen/permanent resident in Australia;
  • People over 18 years old; and
  • People who have not accessed Escaping Violence Payment in the last 12 months.

For more information about the Escape Violence Payment, visit

Perth Family Lawyers applaud the introduction of the Escaping Violence Payment and hope it is here to stay. As Ms Little pointed out, ‘We believe that all people, especially women and their children, have the right to live freely and without fear, and this payment is an important step forward to ending violence against women and their children’.

If you, or someone you know is impacted by domestic of family violence, we encourage you to visit the above provided link.

We also urge you to contact our offices on (08) 9325 8675 to obtain timely advice as to your legal options and the best available next steps. It is critical to have a supporting legal team around you to assist you to make the best decisions for your future.

[1] Minister for the Department of Social Services, ‘New payment to help women escape violent relationships’ (Media Release, 17 October 2021).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

First Days of School

On a number of social media platforms at the start of the new school year we are inundated with photographs taken by parents of their kids commencing or returning to school for the year. It is always so heartwarming to see those young smiling eager faces, setting out on their educational adventure for that year and the beautiful expressions of gratitude and love from parents wishing them success.

Sadly, also on a number of platforms there will be posts about parents excluded not only from being present on those all important ‘first day’ or ‘first day back’ to school but even from receiving a photograph from the other parent of that milestone. For those parents and children, this can be heartbreaking…but also lets think about the impact on the kids, who missed out on the other parent being there, or at least having a photograph to treasure of that day.

I was once privileged to be present during a very profound mediation event. The chairperson asked the parents to talk about how they hoped their child would recall the parent’s separation, and the period of their childhood that encompassed that time. Of course both parents readily stated that they hoped that their child recalled that their childhood was happy, and without trauma. Is that what your child or children will recall? Sometimes adults, in the midst of emotional trauma, shame and grief, lose sight of the long term impact on children and unconsciously expose the children to the adult conflict.

Small decisions you make, in the moment, have an impact.

Consider sharing that first day back to school photograph.

Even if you don’t have to.

For your kid’s sake.

So both of you treasure the moment.

If you have any questions, we recommend you to contact our office on (08) 9325 8675 as soon as possible.

Parenting Arrangements over the Christmas period

Christmas period can be a joyful time for most families. At Perth Family Lawyers we know only too well that it can also be emotional and stressful, particularly for separated parents if they have no agreed parenting arrangements as to time with the children over the Christmas holidays.  Our family lawyers have seen far-reaching consequences if a parent is unable to see children over Christmas, as this can significantly impact the post-separation parenting relationship for many years.  It is far better to have clear agreed arrangements in place, so there is no room for misunderstandings about the time each parent is spending with the children over Christmas.

A common solution to parenting arrangements over Christmas is to agree to share and alternate the arrangements each year.  For example the children may spend time with the Mother from 2.00pm Christmas Eve until 2.00pm Christmas Day and with the Father from 2.00pm Christmas Day until 2.00pm Boxing Day in one year, and rotate the arrangement the next.  This means that children can enjoy Christmas at both Mum and Dad’s homes, and experience Christmas morning with each of them every second year.  Another approach commonly agreed to by parents, is that the children spend the entirety of the Christmas period with one parent only, and this is alternated.  This can be preferred if you do not reside in close proximity together, or if there is significant conflict between you.  Individual tailored legal advice from experienced family lawyers is critical to securing the approach that will be best for your children.

All applications for parenting matters regarding the Christmas period must be filed by 4.00pm on Friday, 12 November 2021.  Applications filed after this date may not be processed and heard before Christmas, leaving families distressed if parents are unable to see their children for Christmas. 

If you and the other parent cannot agree about Christmas parenting arrangements, or if you are concerned you will not be able to spend time with your children over Christmas, act now.

Perth Family Lawyers can provide you with a legal advice and file any necessary applications to ensure you spend time with your children during this special time of the year.

In urgent parenting cases, such as cases involving family violence or a risk of harm to children, there is no cut-off date for filing of applications. 

If you wish to negotiate parenting arrangements with the other parent and need our assistance, or if you think you should file an application with the Family Court in that respect, we recommend you to contact our office on (08) 9325 8675 as soon as possible. If you have any queries, please contact our office

Parenting Plans vs Consent Orders

Parenting Plan

A Parenting Plan is an agreement between parents of a child (or children), in writing and signed, setting out the terms regarding the care and welfare of the party’s children. Parenting Plans generally deal with the living arrangements of the children, time the children are to spend with the other parent, day-to-day life organisation and decision making in respect of the important long-term issues such as schooling, religion, change of names etc.

Parenting Plans are a good option for parents who are amicable, as parenting plans do not have to be approved by the court, meaning that there is no filing fee. Parenting Plans are flexible and can be changed by the parties at any point, subject to a written agreement between them.

However, Parenting Plans are not binding and enforceable. Therefore, if you suspect the other parent may fail to comply with the terms of the Parenting Plan in the future, this may not be a good option for you. However, if you do enter into a Parenting Plan and are required to commence Court proceedings at a later date, the Family Court must have regard to the terms of a Parenting Plan when considering what further Orders to make.


Consent Orders in Respect of Parenting Arrangements

Similarly to Parenting Plans, a Consent Order is a written agreement between parents in relation to the care and welfare of their children, but an important difference is that Consent Orders are approved by the Family Court and therefore, legally binding and enforceable. This means that if a parent contravenes an Order with no reasonable excuse, the Court may apply penalties against that parent for the breaches. The penalties may not be serious, for example, the Court may order the parent who failed to facilitate the other parent’s time with the children to compensate the time lost. However, for more serious breaches, the Court may even impose a prison sentence.

Therefore, if you and the other parent have agreed on certain terms regarding the care of your children, but you suspect the other parent may not honour those terms, you should consider applying to the Family Court for Consent Orders.

If you and the other parent already have a Parenting Plan but are thinking about commencing court proceedings, you should know that even though the Family Court is obliged to consider the terms of the existing Parenting Plan, the Court is not bound by its terms when making Orders and can make other Orders if considers they are in the best interest of the children.


What to do?

As noted above, parenting plans are great if you believe the other parent will be compliant with the agreed terms – it is flexible, easy, and quick. On the other hand, if the other parent refuses to comply with the existing Parenting Plan, there is no way you can enforce it. Consent Orders may be more expensive (filing fee payable to the Family Court for same is $160) and not as flexible and accordingly, negotiations and finalisation of a Consent Order between the parties can take more time. However, once approved by the Court, the terms are binding for the parties and can only be changed by a subsequent application to the Court to vary the Order, or by a subsequent Parenting Plan (which would again be unenforceable).

Regardless of whether you are considering obtaining a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order, you should first talk with a family law practitioner. We at Perth Family Lawyers can discuss your situation, and provide you with a legal advice as to what would likely work best for you. As every family matter is different, it is important to obtain professional legal opinion before taking further steps in either direction.

If you want to know more about Parenting Plans and Consent Orders, or if you wish to discuss your family law matter in general, you should call Perth Family Lawyers on (08) 9325 8675. Perth Family Lawyers offer a fixed price initial consultation, so call us today to arrange a time to speak with one of our experienced solicitors.

Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month and provides an opportunity to reflect on the severity of the issue, promote awareness, and start conversations to remove stigma around suicide. This month is one where we can initiate change, unite survivors, allies, and community members to spread awareness about suicide prevention. 


How common is suicide?

In 2018 it was recorded 3,046 deaths by suicide were registered in Australia, this is an average of 8 deaths per day. 

  • 1 in 8 Australians aged 16 – 85 had serious thoughts about taking their own life.
  • 1 in 25 had made a suicide plan and.
  • 1 in 33 had attempted suicide.


Warning Signs:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Reckless behaviour
  • Poor diet changes
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Alcohol / drug abuse
  • Saying they feel worthless or alone
  • Talking about death or wanting to die
  • Believing they are a burden to others 


Ways you can you help:

  • Ask those around you how they are and let them know you care about them.
  • Provide a judgement free zone, don’t criticise, or blame them.
  • Ask if they have felt this way before.
  • Reassure them that they will not feel this way forever.
  • Validate their experiences and feelings.
  • Check-in with them frequently. 
  • Offer to help them find professional help.


Ways you can help yourself:

  • Seek support in those around you. Colleagues, friends, family, it is likely they are more understanding than you know.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak to a professional or a helpline. There is no shame in receiving help.
  • Engage in activities that make you feel fulfilled; join a new club, exercise, or something as simple as a weekly dinner with friends.

As Perth Family Lawyers deals with Family Law Matters, we understand how difficult times can trigger responses in people.  We aim to provide the guidance and support needed during these tough times. We emphasise you are never alone and we are by your side.


Resources (24/7):

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 367

Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

Register for webinars for more information on the pressing issue:

Equal Shared Care Parenting Arrangements, and is it a good idea for my Children?

It is common that parents who equally share the care of their children consider that the best way to do it is by alternating weeks, also known as “week about”. However, even though such a schedule is simple and easy to follow for the parents, it may not be the best choice for the children, particularly young children and especially during school periods.


Alternate Schedules


The 5-2-2-5 schedule allows both parents to spend equal time with their children. In accordance with the schedule, one parent has the children on Mondays and Tuesdays overnight. The other parent has the children on Wednesdays and Thursdays overnight. Then the parents alternate the Friday-Saturday-Sunday overnights each week.

This schedule constitutes a two-week (fourteen-day) rotation. This means that if you are scheduled to be the ‘Wednesday-Thursday’ parent, you will have kids on Wednesday + Thursday + Friday + Saturday + Sunday the first week (the first 5 days), and on Wednesday + Thursday the second week (the second 2 days). The other parent will be the ‘Monday-Tuesday’ parent, and will have the children in their care on Monday + Tuesday the first week (the first 2 days) and then on Friday + Saturday + Sunday + Monday + Tuesday the second week (the second 5 days).

The 5-2-2-5 schedule provides for consistency (one parent will always have Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other Wednesdays and Fridays) therefore it may be easier for the parents, but more importantly, the schedule may be beneficial for the children, as it would be easier for them to understand exactly when they will be spending time with each parent.

A negative side of this arrangement may be the frequency of handovers, particularly if the parents are not particularly amicable with one another or have a conflictual relationship.



The 3-4-4-3 schedule is another 50/50 shared parenting schedule. In accordance with this schedule, the first parent has the children for 3 days of the week, and the second parent for the remaining 4 days. The following week, the schedule shifts, so the first parent has the children for 4 days, and the second for the remaining 3 days of the week.

Depending on which day the schedule starts, there are different variations. This schedule may actually take a form of a:

  • 4-3-3-4;
  • 4-3-4-3;
  • 3-4-3-4;
  • 4-4-3-3;
  • 3-3-4-4.

This arrangement allows the parents to have the children in their care on the same nights each week, save for the one night that shifts every week, therefore it also provides for consistency for the parents and the children. This arrangement can work well with parents who have different work schedules.

The negative side of this schedule is that it may function in a way that only one parent has the children every weekend.

We can assist you with choosing the schedule that would work best for you, your children, and the other parent. The schedules mentioned above are just some of the possibilities, but as experienced family law professionals we know that each family has its own needs and unique dynamic, and we are here to listen, consider all the factors you deem important and help you to achieve the best suitable arrangement for you and your children.


Is Equal Shared Care Appropriate?

It is also imperative to obtain independent family law advice from experienced family lawyers before agreeing to equal shared care. 

It is not uncommon for parents to mistakenly believe that the Court will impose an equal shared care arrangement.  This is not accurate.  Equal shared care requires a high degree of mutual respect and cooperation and may not be suitable for families in high conflict, or where the children are young.  Commonly, equal shared care of children seems to be more prevalent where children are older, the parents can effectively communicate in an amicable way, and there are no risk issues present for the children when in the care of either parent.

You can call us on (08) 9325 8675 to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers, or visit our website

But Google said…. The importance of getting expert advice in Family Law

Having the internet at our fingertips makes life so much easier. Google, and the internet in general, has changed our lives and now it’s as simple as saying “hey google, can you tell me about the recipe for” or “hey google can you direct me to the nearest coffee shop” to get the information you need. But what about legal advice? Does, “hey google how do I get divorced? or “hey Google, what happens if my ex doesn’t hand over my children?” actually help you?

The short answer is no. Internet browsing will often lead you to brochures and instructions on Western Australian court websites, or articles on websites which can be informative, but often only provide generic advice not specific, or helpful, to your own situation.

Every case, particularly so in Family Law, is very different. Seeking legal advice from a qualified family lawyer gives you advice specific to your own situation, what steps you need to take and support from the beginning.

We so often hear incorrect statements like “as soon as a child turns 12, they can do what they want, the Family Court has no say” or “my friend just had a property settlement and she got X%”. What happened in your friend or family members situation is unlikely to apply to your own case.

Sitting down with a family lawyer, early on in your separation, who has a complete understanding of the legislation, rules and court processes is priceless. We always recommend that your first step should be to see a solicitor at Perth Family Lawyers, to ensure you are aware of all your rights and responsibilities, and can find out in advance of any negotiations occurring, from experienced independent family lawyers, what your options are. 

Our family lawyers, at Perth Family Lawyers, are experts in this field. We understand that family law mattes are complex, invasive and at times heart breaking. Family Law is an area that involves those closest to you – your family – and we appreciate the fact it is an area of law that involves high emotions. When issues arise in situations that are so important to you, it is imperative to invest in obtaining clear advice from an expert family lawyer.

So before you say, “Hey google…”, contact us at Perth Family Lawyers on (08) 9325 8675 to book an appointment today. Perth Family Lawyers offer fixed cost initial appointments, where we can provide you with professional legal advice and guide you through your next steps. Call (08) 9325 8675 today or obtain further information on our website

I want to change my child’s surname, where do I start?

There are many reasons why a person may want to change their child’s surname, whether this be for personal, religious or cultural reasons.  The team here at Perth Family Lawyers can assist you with achieving this.

Whilst it seems like a simple process, changing a Child’s name can be difficult, and we highly recommend that you seek appropriate legal advice from an experienced family lawyer who is familiar with change of name applications.

If both parents agree with changing a child’s surname and the child was born in WA, the process is relatively straightforward, and the parents can jointly sign an application form called “Application to register a change of name (child under 18 years” and submit it to the Western Australian Registry of Birth Deaths and Marriages.  You can review the form by clicking on the link:

If your child was born overseas but is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident and has lived in WA continuously for the 12 months preceding the application, you can apply by completing the form referred to above if both parents agree.

When there is only one parent included in the Child’s Birth Certificate, that parent can similarly apply to change their child’s name by completing the application form.

The process of name changes in the Family Court of Western Australia

If both parents are named on the child’s birth certificate and there is no agreement about changing the child’s name, we recommend you attend our offices for an appointment from an experienced family lawyer to obtain advice, as an application may need to be filed in the Family Court of Western Australia.  Our understanding and friendly team will support you through this process and any application that may need to be made in the Family Court of Western Australia.

The Family Court will take into consideration many factors when deciding whether it is in the best interest of the Child to allow a name change. Some of these are include:

  • The primary reasons for the name change;
  • The effects, both long and short term, of the name change;
  • Identity or cultural issues that may occur if the name changes, or if the name stays the same;
  • Issues that the Child may encounter because of the name change;
  • Whether any relationships are effected if the name changes, or if the name stays the same;
  • The involvement of the parent opposing the name change;
  • The suitability of the proposed variation to the child’s name; or
  • Whether the Child’s extended family, stepfamily or blended family has any impact on the decision.

We cannot stress enough the importance of seeking appropriate legal advice from a Family Lawyer in relation to a name change for your Child if there is a dispute between you and the other parent.  Our team at Perth Family Lawyers can assist you to make the decision that best suits your family and has your Child’s best interest at heart.

What information can I share about my family law matter?

With the rise of social media, relaying information to family and friends online about your private affairs has become commonplace.  Whilst this is the case, you should be aware that doing so about your Family Court proceedings could land you in hot water.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”) provides as follows:

  1. A person who publishes in a newspaper or periodical publication, by radio broadcast or television or by other electronic means, or otherwise disseminates to the public or to a section of the public by any means, any account of any proceedings, or of any part of any proceedings, under this Act that identifies:
    • a party to the proceedings;
    • a person who is related to, or associated with, a party to the proceedings or is, or is alleged to be, in any other way concerned in the matter to which the proceedings relate; or
    • a witness in the proceedings;

commits an offence punishable, upon conviction by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.

Whilst the chance of circulating information about your family law matter in a newspaper, publication, radio or television is unlikely, doing so by electronic means is certainly not.

The Act defines electronic means as any form of data, text or images, and even voice recordings. Therefore, any information which is shared via text messages, photographs via MMS, voicemail, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media sites for example, may result in a breach of Section 121 of the Act, and depending on the severity of the breach, could result in a term of imprisonment.

The Act does not only restrain the publication of information or transmission of information by electronic means, merely discussing or providing a copy of your Court documents to friends or family, or any person who is not subject to the proceedings may also lead to a breach of the Act.

For more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your family law matter, call Perth Family Lawyers on (08) 9325 8675 or email us at

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