Separation is a difficult time for parents and children. If your separation has been messy you might find it difficult to agree on parenting arrangements for your children. Or maybe things have been going alright for a while but now not so well. You might even be a grandparent who has not been allowed to see their grandchildren.
The Family Law Act says that you must attend mediation prior to commencing court proceedings. There are some exceptions to this such as when there has been family violence or if it is an urgent situation (such as a parent wishing to relocate to another state). However, for the most part mediation is necessary. Once you have attempted mediation you will be issued with a Section 60i certificate which will then enable you to commence Court proceedings if necessary.
There are a few ways you can arrange mediation:
1. Through an organisation such as Interrelate or Family Relationship centre. These organisations will arrange a mediation for you. They will contact the other party on your behalf. At these mediations you do not have a solicitor present however, the mediators are well trained and will help you to reach the best possible outcome.
2. Through a private mediator. This is generally a little more expensive but can be much quicker for you. You are also able to have a solicitor present at a private mediation.
3. Through Legal Aid. If you are eligible for a grant of Legal Aid (you meet the means and merit test) then you can attend a mediation organised by Legal Aid. At this mediation your solicitor is present and if you reach agreement your solicitor can prepare a parenting plan or court orders. Your solicitor can also advise you on which is more appropriate in your circumstances. We can make an application to Legal aid on your behalf and represent you at the mediation.
Successful parenting arrangements assist children to adjustment well to the separation of their parents. It allows children to feel secure in their changed environment and continue to enjoy and develop good relationships with their entire family, not just their parents. This is an important issue. It may also be very challenging at times for both parents. You and your children will benefit by you taking legal advice from an experienced family law practitioner.