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The Law and You: holiday parenting Orders

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The festive season, including Christmas, New Year and then summer, is a special time for families and friends.

It’s time to spend together, relax and have fun, but who gets the children when parents have separated and can’t agree on parenting arrangements?

It’s important to remember that the deadline for filing for holiday parenting Orders is fast approaching. You don’t want to miss out.

This column provides important information around the filing deadline for holiday parenting Orders.

I can’t agree with my partner over who gets the kids? What should I do?

If you can’t discuss sharing the children with your partner, or are unsuccessful in doing so, you can try to mediate an outcome with a Mediator in the community. If this doesn’t work, it’s wise to engage a lawyer who is experienced in family law. You can find a community Mediator by telephoning Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.

At Watts McCray we’ll explain your rights and the processes involved. We’ll write to your partner and attempt to broker an outcome. If this doesn’t work, we will—on your behalf—file urgent Court proceedings.

How late can I start a Court proceeding?

Consider taking steps as soon as possible. It’s common for the Courts to become flooded with urgent applications seeking parenting orders before the holidays and, at times, it’s not possible for the Family Law Courts to get to all of them before they shut down.

There is no guarantee that a matter will be heard before Christmas so any delay in filing an application could result in your matter not being listed before the holidays.

When is the deadline?

The timing is different in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

Family Court—parents applying for a parenting order that relates in whole or in part to the Term 4 school holiday period starting in December 2018 and extending to January 2019 must file their application before 4 pm on Friday, 9 November 2018.

Federal Circuit Court— much more frequently, parents and interested parties (for example, grandparents) file their family law application in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, which handles the bulk of family law cases. The Federal Circuit Court will hear applications right up until the last week before Christmas Day.

Whether your particular case will be heard or not depends on its urgency with each case being assessed individually and on its own merits. Family Law Courts will always try to accommodate parties, particularly if the children’s welfare is in question. The longer you wait to file your application the less likely it is that it will be heard before Christmas.

The Family Law Courts traditionally shut down for the whole of January, but processes are in place to deal with extremely urgent cases during that time. This includes, for example, if a parent is threatening to take children out of the country without the other parent’s consent.

What do the Courts consider when deciding if my application is urgent?

In addition to the filing deadline and the constraints on the availability of both Courts, the Courts consider what is in the best interests of the children when assessing if an application is urgent and will be heard before Christmas.

If you think you’ll have issues about parenting arrangements over Christmas or the summer holiday period, consider obtaining urgent legal advice early to assess if submitting a parenting application to the Court on an urgent basis is the best thing for your circumstances. At Watts McCray, we’ll help you prepare and lodge the application.

Debra Parker

This expert column was prepared by Debra Parker, Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer, Watts McCray Lawyers in Canberra.

Debra gained her Bachelor of Laws at the University of Adelaide and was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the ACT in 1984. The following year she was admitted to practice in the Federal Court and the High Court of Australia. She was made a member of the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators in 1992 and is a Nationally Accredited Mediator with the Mediator Standards Board. Debra is also a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of the ACT. She is the only family lawyer in the ACT with double Specialist Accreditation in both Family Law and also in Dispute Resolution, as recognised and awarded by the Law Society of NSW.

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