When a couple decides to separate and no longer live together, the law encourages both the mother and father to agree to a parenting arrangement that’s in the best interest of the child.
When the thought of a post-separation parenting plan comes to mind, many people jump to the conclusion that the mother will gain full custody of the children. And the father will be limited to only seeing their loved ones on weekends – or even not at all.
Fortunately, this misconception could not be further from the truth.
Here’s everything you need to know about creating a parenting arrangement, and the legal rights of fathers after a separation.
Creating a Parenting Arrangement
The reality is the Family Law Act 1975 has a strong focus on the rights of children. And the law encourages former couples to create a parenting plan, one where the child can enjoy a meaningful relationship with both parents – given they are safe from physical and psychological harm.
If both parties can reach an agreement on their own, they can choose to make an informal pact, or establish the terms and conditions in writing with a parenting plan or consent order. Keep in mind a parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement, but on the plus side you don’t have to go to court to create one.
What if both parties cannot reach an agreement on their own?
They can then try family dispute resolution.
If family dispute resolution does not work, the next logical step is to apply to the family law courts and ask for a consent order. The terms of the consent order can be made with help from the parents, or the final decision can be made by the courts after a hearing or trial.
Legal Rights of Fathers
Many divorced fathers fear that they may not be able to spend as much or any time with their children.
The good news is that each case is unique. And that means, if the courts do need to get involved, they take a lot of factors into account to decide how to create a suitable parenting arrangement.
Perhaps the most crucial goal of the courts is to protect the child from physical and psychological harm. Their second goal is to help the child enjoy a healthy relationship with both parents.
But if it’s not possible to achieve a peaceful balance between the two, here are a few details the courts will take into account to reach a decision:
- The kind of relationship the child has with each parent, along with extended family or other significant people.
- The personal views of the child. Of course, this only applies if the child is mature enough to understand the situation. Regardless, the child is never forced to share their own opinion of the situation, only if they volunteer to contribute.
- Whether both parents are equally able to financially support the child.
- How involved each parent is in regards to important, long-term decisions that affect the child.
- How much time each parent previously has (or has not) spent with the child.
- How practical it is for each parent to spend time with the child. For example, if one parent lives significantly further away from the child than the other, this may impact how much time the child spends with each parent.
Talk to the Experts
Of course, these are just a few considerations the courts will think about. Every modern family is unique and that means some of the above-mentioned factors may not apply. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to seek tailored legal advice.
If you are currently dealing with a divorce or separation where children are involved, get in touch with a licensed family lawyer.
They can assess your circumstances, advise you on your legal rights, and give you practical steps on how to reach the best possible outcome.
Even if you have to attend court, a family lawyer will know how to guide you through the process and help you achieve a satisfactory result.