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Norman Waterhouse

Do I need a lawyer to apply for custody of my children?

Contested parenting matters are, by their very nature, vexing and emotive. When the welfare and best interests of children are at stake, it is only natural that parents are emotionally invested.

Matters relating to children are otherwise often complex, particularly when those children have special needs or where a strained or fractured relationship exists between parents. While you are able to represent yourself during the course of any family law negotiations and/or court proceedings, we recommend seeking out the advice and guidance of an experienced family law solicitor so that you can a be confident that any decisions you make regarding your matter are properly informed.

Litigation of parenting matters can involve mediation with accredited family law mediators, Family Dispute Resolution Conferences, family assessment processes with a psychologist or social worker, interim court hearings and trial. The courtroom environment can be imposing and intimidating for many people, particularly during contested hearings, and the language and intricacies of the law can be confusing at the best of times.

Not all parenting matters, however, need result in litigation. Ideally, you and your former partner will be able to reach an agreement regarding care arrangements for your children. In that case, it may be appropriate to formalise those arrangements through an order of the court in any event. Alternatively, agreed care arrangements can be documented by way of a parenting plan.

There are complexities to long term care arrangements that can be easily overlooked without careful forethought and consideration. Failure to consider these matters can in some cases lead to one or both parents later seeking variations to the orders or parenting plan. When parents are unable to agree variations, the parent seeking to vary a final order is required to make an application to the court and demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances in relation to either the parents or children to whom the final orders apply. This is referred to as the Rice v Asplund threshold and the law relating to such applications can be complicated.

While the costs involved in court proceedings, including advice, preparation of documents, and barristers’ fees, can be significant, obtaining sound and timely advice from an experienced family law solicitor will often help to minimise those costs and streamline the resolution of your matter.

If you require assistance in relation to any family law enquiry, please contact:-

Christopher Mason, Senior Associate +61 8 8210 1231


22 October 2020



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