When a mother and a father separate usually the child or the children of the marriage
or the relationship remain with either the mother or the father for most of the
time. The other parent (the non custodial parent) will spend time with the
child or children as much as possible. The Family Law Act 1975 provides for
the non custodial parent to spend “substantial and significant” time with the child
or children which is more than just two nights per fortnight and half of school
holidays. In any one fortnightly period the non custodial parent should expect
to be able to spend time with his or her child or children between three and five
nights per fortnight. This is particularly so where the mother and the father
live in the same town. It may be different if there is a long distance between
the parents. When it is not possible to spend time together the children
may still be in contact with the non custodial parent by telephone, email or through
such things as Skype.
Orders revolving around children, sometimes called “Parenting Orders”, are not restricted to mothers and fathers. They may also relate to extended family members such as grandparents and the new partners of the mother or the father.
The only test which is important in determining who the children should live with and how much time they should spend with the other parent is what is in the best interests of the children. The Court usually takes the view that it is in the best interests of the children to spend as much time with both parents and that the more amicable the arrangement the less distress and suffering that the children of separated parents go through.
Recent amendments to the Family Law Act now require parties in dispute over children’s issues to undergo mediation through a Family Relationship Centre, Interrelate or Centacare so that they can obtain a section 60I certificate to give to their solicitor to enable Court proceedings to be commenced if there is still no agreement between the parties even after mediation.
We would strongly advise you to obtain legal advice relating to your specific circumstances to ensure that you have all the information you need on your rights and obligations together with the options available to you to assist you in resolving any Family Law matter.