Child Custody Lawyers Sunshine Coast

"To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today."
- Barbara Johnson

We understand that parenting and timesharing arrangements are emotionally and mentally draining.

Child custody matters

Yet they are essential to the emotional health of each child involved in a separation. Dealing with separated families is difficult enough, so working civilly with your former partner in your child’s best interests is critical to any child custody case. Ultimately, we want to ensure your child’s life is fulfilling and free from physical or psychological harm.

As with all the best child custody lawyers, our family lawyers are parents too. We know first hand what parenting entails; from the emotional, spiritual, and academic development of raising children, to the logistical difficulties of commuting to and from school, and extra-curricular and social activities.

Our child custody family lawyers understand that the arrangements made must take the “big picture” into consideration. This may include the transition from one home into two homes, the working hours of each parent and work related travel schedules. We will develop an agreement that is fair to both parties and, most importantly, the children. We understand every aspect of child custody family law.

Child Custody Responsibility

The basics you need to understand

At Shanahan Family Law our child custody lawyers talk about timesharing and equal shared parental responsibility with regard to children. Timesharing relates to the schedule that both parents will enjoy with their children.

Equal shared parental responsibility involves both parents making major decisions that directly affects children such as, education, medical and health care, religious upbringing, and extra-curricular activities.

All child custody family law cases are different, and our family lawyers emphasise parental involvement as appropriate on a case-by-case basis, taking into account your particular circumstances. The child custody and timesharing schedule must be one that is clearly outlined and that can be implemented without having an adverse effect on the children.

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We routinely mediate and litigate disputes concerning parenting matters. Where possible, we endeavour to avoid court proceedings and will guide clients towards resolving disputes amicably with consent orders.

Child custody by agreement

Follow these important parenting plan steps

The ideal outcome in child custody family law matters is for parents to be able to come to a parenting agreement about what child custody arrangements should be put in place. These parenting arrangements can be made formally or informally. Formal agreements are legally binding, while anything agreed to informally is not. 

Child Custody Parenting plans

A parenting plan is a written agreement that is not legally enforceable, but does provide a useful framework that allows all parties involved to understand their mutual parental responsibilities. There is no standard format for a parenting plan, and they can cover as many aspects of parenting as is deemed necessary. Typically, the more detailed a parenting plan is, the more successful it will be in establishing an effective child custody agreement.

Some of the primary considerations in a parenting plan are (but not limited to):

  • Nominating appropriate communication channels

  • How any child custody disputes will be mediated

  • Whether the other parent should be considered first when a babysitter is needed

  • Setting out relevant schedules, including-

    • visitation schedules

    • The child’s living arrangements with each parent

    • Schedules around special times like birthdays

  • How school drop offs and pick ups will be handled

  • How required changes to schedules will be resolved.

Consent orders Accepted by the Court

Are your parenting plans legal?

Parenting agreements may be made legally binding by applying to the family court for consent orders. As consent orders are recognised by the court, breaching one is a crime and may attract a fine or even prison time. This provides a remedy in child custody matters when one parent refuses to adhere to the agreement.

Even though parents may agree to a proposed consent order, it must also be accepted by the court. If the court finds that the submitted order unduly prioritises one parent over the other, or is not in the child’s best interests, the order will be rejected. To ensure that a consent order has the best chance to be successful, it is highly recommended to seek legal advice from a family lawyer before pursuing an order. 

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An application for consent orders should be filed within 12 months of a divorce, or within two years from when a de facto relationship breaks down.

If an agreement cannot be reached on a parenting plan, the matter can then be taken to the family law court in Maroochydore. A parenting order will be assessed in the same way as a consent order. The court will come to a determination based on what it considers to be a fair and just outcome for both parties, based on what is in the child’s best interests.

Child custody without agreement

Parenting order

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not possible to resolve child custody issues amicably, and court mandated parenting orders are required.

Seeking parenting orders to settle child custody disputes is a drastic action that should only be used once all other options have been exhausted. It is generally preferable that a parenting dispute be resolved privately, without recourse to the family court. As such, before the court hears a case, you will usually be required to attend mediation with the other party. 

Family Dispute resolution can take different forms, but broadly relates to the process of coming to a consensus on a child custody matter that avoids the need to go to court. This can be done informally with the assistance of family or members of the community, or you can engage a family dispute resolution service to offer professionally conducted mediation.

Joint Child Custody

50/50 custody split?

While joint custody is preferred, this does not necessarily mean custody will be split 50/50. The court does believe it is in the child’s best interests to maintain the child’s relationship with both parents. Therefore, child custody arrangements should generally allow the child to spend time with both parents to maintain a meaningful relationship with each of them. 

There is no requirement that the time shared between parents be equal. One parent will often become the primary caregiver, even though that parent may not have sole parental responsibility for all of the child’s major life decisions. 

Family violence

Seek advice from a family lawyer

Child custody cases involving family violence are taken extremely seriously by law firms and the family court. A child’s safety is our paramount consideration, and is likely grounds for sole custody.

Seek guidance from a family lawyer if you are concerned about domestic violence and need to put parenting orders in place immediately.

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Factors considered in a child custody determination

Family law act

In any family law matter, neither parent has superior rights to their children, regardless of their age or gender. The Family Court’s main goal and focus is to protect children’s rights. The Family Law Act sets out what factors the Court should consider to achieve this.

Each parent must demonstrate his or her ability to:

  • Continue a healthy and caring parent-child relationship in respect to the timesharing schedule as set forth by the parents of the child and the Court
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  • Communicate any and all changes to the timesharing schedule as they arise

  • Consider and make decisions based solely on the child’s best interests as opposed to the interests of the child’s parents

  • Implement and maintain a consistent routine for the child, including any and all daily activities and schedules

  • Participate and encourage the child in his or her school and extracurricular activities.

  • Maintain a healthy and abuse-free environment.

  • Recognize the needs of school-age children as well as pay attention to travel times and schedules adhering to the time-sharing plan.

  • Maintain and continue the child’s living arrangements and routines as consistently as possible.

  • Communicate with the co-parent as often as necessary in regards to the child’s needs and schedules.

  • Make an effort to remain informed of the child’s school activities and performance, social stability, health care, daily activities, and so on.

  • Maintain the mental and physical health of each parent for the child.

  • Meet all the child’s needs during crucial development stages.

  • Consider any other relevant factors by the Court.

Contact Shanahan Family Law if you would like to learn more about child custody. Book an initial consultation with an experienced child custody lawyer. Based in Maroochydore, Sunshine Coast, we are here to support you every step of the way in your new life.

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