Disputes about the care and custody of children can be extremely difficult. They often arise in the context of the breakdown of a relationship – there can be a lot of “baggage” involved. Unfortunately, such disputes can drag on and be very emotionally (and financially) draining for all involved.
Except in serious cases – such as where there is a risk of abuse or neglect of a child – the starting point should generally be an attempt to work together with your former partner to negotiate arrangements that can work for everyone.
In such matters it is important not to strive for perfection – rarely is there going to be an arrangement that will suit both parties perfectly and will leave everyone feeling completely satisfied. But a negotiated – albeit imperfect – arrangement is much better for everyone (and especially children) than protracted litigation. Not only is litigation expensive and stressful, the outcome is uncertain.
It is not the case that you only need a lawyer when you’re heading to court. A responsible family lawyer will (if appropriate) encourage you to negotiate with your former partner with a view to coming to an arrangement that can work. Sometimes you can negotiate directly, but often this is not possible and it is necessary for both parties to retain lawyers who will engage with one another to strike a bargain without having to go to court.
If you do come to an agreement, lawyers can then draft the agreement in the form of “consent orders” that can then be submitted to the Family Court for approval. If made, the order will be legally binding on everyone just as if you went through the full court process – but without all the stress and expense. This is an ideal outcome because it gives you the certainty of a court order without the need to actually litigate your dispute.
It is always the policy of this firm to seek to negotiate a resolution if at all possible. It is only in serious cases such as where there are allegations of abuse or neglect (or where the other party is simply refusing to engage in negotiations) that I would recommend that a dispute proceed to formal court action.
If you need assistance to negotiate a family law dispute about child custody in South Australia, please contact Dewar Legal by calling (08) 8311 3964 or by clicking here. I would be happy to meet with you free of charge to discuss your options.