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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/suicide-and-intentional-self-harm

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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 

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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.

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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.

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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: 

https://www.suicidepreventionaust.org/

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.

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Alternate Schedules

5-2-2-5

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.

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3-4-4-3

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.

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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 www.perthfamilylawyers.com.

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 www.perthfamilylawyers.com

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: https://www.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-07/BDM401-register-a-change-of-name-child-under-18.pdf

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 admin@perthfamilylawyers.com

FVRO’s – Same sex and Gender Identification

In the event that a person in a relationship is the subject of family violence or perceives that in the future they may be subjected to family violence, that person may seek to obtain a family violence restraining order (FVRO) from the Magistrates Court protecting themselves from the perpetrator of domestic violence.  

A person only needs to demonstrate that they are in a family relationship and as such is either currently or previously married or are or were in a defacto relationship.

The legislation does not specify what the gender of the parties must be nor does the law discriminate as to what gender a person identifies as.  Therefore, if you are in a same sex relationship and subject to any form of domestic violence or have the fear that in the future you may be subjected to family violence you are able to apply to the Magistrates Court for a (FVRO) for your own protection.

Here at Perth Family Lawyers, we have extensive experience in all areas of FVRO’s, no matter what your personal relationship circumstances may be.   Our services include preparing an application, to providing advice whether you are the person protected or person bound by an FVRO, together with any court representation that may be required.

We recommend that you contact us to book an initial appointment with one of our lawyers to discuss your matter.  Please call our office on 9325 8675.  We are conveniently located close to the Perth Magistrates Court; however our lawyers regularly attend all suburban and regional Magistrate courts representing our clients in FVRO matters.

What is a Conduct Agreement Order?

If you have been served with a Family Violence Restraining Order, there are ways to resolve the matter without having to attend a Final Hearing.

Having to attend a final hearing with regards to a Family Violence Restraining Order (“FVRO”) in the Magistrates Court can be both financially and emotionally stressful, not just for the Applicant but for the Respondent as well.

One of the ways a FVRO can be settled, without a final hearing, is for the Respondent (or the Person who is bound by the FVRO) to consent to a Conduct Agreement Order (“CAO”). A CAO is consented to by the Respondent on what is known as a “without admission” basis. This means the Respondent is not admitting there is any necessity for the CAO, nor are they admitting to having engaged in any family violence, but simply consenting to be bound by a CAO.

A Conduct Agreement Order will often include the same restraints, and require the Respondent to be bound to the same terms as the FVRO, however negotiations can occur between the parties (via their respective solicitors) as to the terms of the CAO. Consenting to a CAO will avoid the need to have a final hearing, and it will also mean there are no findings made by a Court about Family Violence.

You can, however, be charged with a breach (i.e. a criminal charge) of a Conduct Agreement in the same way you would be charged if it was a final FVRO.

All of our solicitors at Perth Family Lawyers have significant experience in dealing with Family Violence Restraining Order matter, and can advise you further about Conduct Agreement Orders.

We recommend that you arrange a meeting with Perth Family Lawyers as soon as possible if you have any queries about Family Violence Restraining Orders.

Call us on (08) 9325 8675 to book an appointment today.

Mediation and Family Dispute Resolution

There are amazing services available in our community to assist separated couples to navigate the difficult issues that need to be resolved following a separation.

Whilst this is the case, at Perth Family Lawyers, our experience is that prior to attending mediation or family dispute resolution, it is critical that you obtain independent legal advice regarding your rights and responsibilities so that you can maximise the benefit of attending at such services.

In preparing for attending at a mediation service, it is important that you have turned your mind to various issues. For example, if you are attending mediation with a view to discussing and resolving parenting issues, it is of significant benefit to have received legal advice regarding what the Court will consider in determining the parenting arrangements having regard to the best interest of your children. In that respect, independent legal advice can provide you with the knowledge that the parenting arrangements you are considering are the best option for your children.

We have met with clients on occasion who have been completely misguided regarding what Orders the Court would make in a parenting case. By way of example, parents of very young infants who incorrectly believe that the Court would order an equal shared care arrangement between a warring, separated couple in circumstances where one of the parents has historically been the child’s primary carer.

For mediation services to assist separated couples to resolve the financial matters, it is important that you have advice regarding disclosure issues, valuation issues, and the relevant factors that the Court will consider in determining a fair and equitable division of the asset pool.

We go above and beyond

Additionally, at Perth Family Lawyers, we aim to offer exceptional service to our valued clients. Accordingly, if we are aware you have scheduled a mediation or a family dispute resolution session, we will ensure you can access legal advice throughout by ensuring a solicitor is available by phone for you to obtain immediate clarity and advice, should the need arise.

Call us now to arrange an appointment to discuss your family law needs, so we can support you whilst you work through the processes involved.

COVID-19 Vaccination

On Friday, 12 March 2021, the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia issued a media release concerning the expansion of the COVID-19 list, in order to provide for a broader range of circumstances.

The Courts recognised that vaccination of children may become an issue of dispute between separated parents and may require priority attention. In addition, families may be experiencing relatively sudden changes to their financial position as government support measures change.

Click on the link below to see the media release

http://www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fccweb/reports-and-publications/media-releases/2021/mr120321

Perth Family Lawyers understand that parents may not share the same views regarding the vaccination of their children against COVID-19. We invite you to call our office on (08) 9325 8675, to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated solicitors if this is an issue for you. We can provide you with  guidance and help you decide how to deal with the dispute

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