Just Separated? Issues over Child Custody? Want to Prepare for Shared Care of your children?
If it looks unlikely that you and your ex-spouse will agree to post-separation child arrangements, make sure you contact your closest Family Relationship Centre as soon as possible and put your name down for family dispute resolution. Some of these have a waiting period of a few months, so do this as a matter of priority. **Please be aware that you cannot go to Court unless you first go to mediation.
New family law legislation promoting shared parenting
If you are a father, the good news is that family law has changed in a substantial way since the family law amendment act (2006). There is now an emphasis on shared care, and some of the discrimination previously directed at fathers is slowly disappearing.
Read more about these changes in our Press Release entitled “Australian Dads in Dark About Recent Family Law changes, Says Fathers4Equality“.
Purchase a book on how to best manage separation and shared parenting.
You may be really astonished as to how common the issues we experience in our relationships are in other relationships. We often feel that our circumstances are unique, and that our ex-spouse and his/her behaviour is out-of-the ordinary, but unfortunately it is all too common and really a part of the human condition.
That being the case, there is a lot to be learned from other’s experiences. One can use this truism to avoid the mistakes of others and take advantage of the wisdom they have acquired.
By showing you are willing to learn and adapt, especially in terms of what is best for your child/ren, this will hold you in good stead when discussing arrangements with your ex-spouse, in mediation, or if you go to Court, because Judges and Federal Magistrates appreciate such efforts as it provides a positive insight into your capacity and willingness to share the care and keep your focus solely on the children.
For starters, look at a highly regarded book like: Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes for Your Child
You will reap much reward by reading it, and by mentioning this purchase in any mediation or court affidavit you may required to submit, it will reflect possitively on your willingness to make shared care work.
Avoid conflict at all costs!
However, all the advantages of these family law changes can be lost overnight by you if you engage in any behaviour that remotely resembles aggressive, abusive or threatening.
When disagreeing with your ex-spouse, DO NOT EVER strike them, threaten them, abuse them or get into a heated argument with them. This may seem difficult given that you have recently separated, but it is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do for yourself and your children. Domestic Abuse laws in this country are pre-emptive, which means that you will be treated as guilty despite there being little evidence to support it. So avoid this perception at all costs.
Regardless of who starts it, who is the aggressor or whether you are both involved in arguing or fighting in equal capacity, the sad truth is that if you are a male, you will more likely get charged with domestic abuse in most cases, regardless of the truth. Remember, where there is smoke, the man is always considered guilty, so avoid even the semblance of conflict. Never give anyone the opportunity to accuse you of being a threat to your ex-spouse. If you do not understand this very important rule, then you can forget about having shared care of your children.
Effective communication with your ex-spouse is key to you securing shared care of your children. Despite the enormous difficulties you will face in trying to keep effective communication channels open, you will be wrong-footing your ex-spouse by never giving in to the temptation to argue or criticise. never let the frustration change your strategy. Stay positive and be relentless in your efforts to persuade your ex-spouse in a responsible manner of the benefits of shared care. For every negative email from the other side, respond in an understanding and considerate manner, but re-iterate your point in a slightly different manner.
Remember to maintain a constructive approach. Mention that you are open to a compromise if they are. Always stay positive and constructive despite the temptations, as it pays dividends in the end.
NEVER EVER send abusive, threatening or even argumentative emails or text messages to your ex-spouse. These are frequently used as evidence in Court to support the notion that shared care will not work in your case, so refrain from giving anyone the opportunity to claim that shared care will not work.
The hurt of separation and losing meaningful contact with your children does get easier. Much much easier, especially if you manage circumstances in a constructive and responsible manner. It may be hard to believe now, especially if you are in the midst of depression, however one day you will wonder what all the fuss was about. Remember, the hurt WILL go away.
If you believe you are suffering from DEPRESSION, make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible. Medicare offers 12 free counselling sessions per year for people suffering depression, and it can really help. Do not try and handle the depression by yourself! Help is available, Please make use of it.
Family Law & the best interests of the Child
Many parents engage in child-centred conflict post-separation because they believe that circumstances are “not fair to them”. This is a mis-guided notion and those people who believe that the Family Court makes decisions based on Justice, Fairness or even Morality will be greatly disillusioned.
The Family Court primarily seeks an outcome that is in a child’s best interests. This concept is subjective and open to many different interpretations, depending on what Judge or Federal Magistrate you are sitting in front of, and can often lead to children being handed over to dis-honest, surreptitious, un-co-operative, alienating and even drug-addicted parents. I am not suggesting that this is the way it should be, but it is the way it often is, so if you are going to Court, it is best to know the rules, no matter how poorly they are constructed, rather than have a false understanding of the Court process.
Family Court litigation and legal costs
Most parents have little understanding of the eventual financial costs to them of going to Court. It is often upwards of $40,000 per party, and can easily exceed $100,000 each.
This emphasises the importance of reaching a settlement without the use of lawyers. Even if you will be short-changed by $10,000 or $20,000 in negotiations, it is of course much better than paying $40,000 in legal fees. It often pays to see your dispute as a business negotiation, rather than a personal matter. Try and settle your matter outside of court unless you really have no other options.
Litigant in Person
If you have little option but to go to Court, you can consider representing yourself in Court.
This would reduce your costs substantially, but would require an enormous amount of work, research and dedication on your part.
A great resource to assist a Litigant in Person, or otherwise known as a Self Represented Litigant, visit the: Family Law Web Guide at:
Because of the nature of family law and the lack of any meaningful disincentive against the making of false allegations,family law proceedings are rife with false allegations centred around domestic abuse and child sexual abuse.
In these cases, prevention is better than cure so do your best to not allow the opportunity for these allegations to be seen to be possible, but if its too late, prepare yourself by reading up on how other false allegations have been treated by the Court.
Also keep in mind that the new family law amendment act (2006) has provided one new measure to deal with false allegations. The wronged party can ask for costs at the end of legal proceedings, if they can reasonably demonstrate that the other party has knowingly made false allegations against them.
This can be found under section 117AB of the family law amendment act.
This is probably the most neglected piece of proof available to parents in legal proceedings. Get yourself a paper based diary and log every contact you have with your ex-spouse. It can be an invaluable source of information come the hearing, and has often been the key to successfully disputing allegations from the other side.
Empower yourself by making a stand
Too often, separated parents bury their head in the sand and do nothing about their predicament. However, fathers in particular have over the last ten years begun to organise themselves, and have made enormous efforts to have these terrible family laws changed.
From these few men and women who started the ball rolling, we are now growing into a group spanning all of Australia, with membership growing at a furious pace. Please join as by registering on the Strength in Numbers register. Nothing is expected of you but a willingness to receive important information, especially during elections.
So don’t let the anti-father hate groups determine family law in this country. Make a stand! Register today.
**Do you have any tips for recently separated parents seeking shared care? Submit them here for consideration.