More so than not, a court order is necessary in regards to where children should live and how much time they should spend with their parents following their separation. That is invariably the case in high conflict matters, or where child safety issues exist. Where uncertainty sometimes arises as to the need for a court order, is where the parents’ separation is somewhat amicable.
At Taylor & Scott, we often see separated parents who hold no animosity towards each other and can still effectively and regularly communicate, or who have reached their own agreement as to their children’s living arrangements or have come up with their own parenting plan. When they come to us and ask why they should go to the lengths of obtaining court orders by consent, we usually say to them that it is always the safe and most effective solution which provides certainty ‘just in case’.
Generally, parents should formalise their parenting arrangements by way of Consent Orders where an agreement has been reached. By way of example, what would happen if and when one or both parents re-partner and the new partner is not liked by the children, or the other parent for whatever reason? What if a new child is born of a new relationship and suddenly half-sibling relationships also need to be taken into account? Or where there are blended families involving step-siblings? Or even where child support issues arise and cause issues between the parents? It may even be that one parent simply changes their mind and unilaterally alters a current informal agreement. As they have no court orders in place, there is no enforceable agreement.
The above are just some examples we have seen which have caused informal parenting arrangements to fall apart. Not only do you then have a situation where both parents have hostility towards each other, but the children become tangled between the parents with uncertainty as to their own living arrangements. It is at that stage that parties end up being involved in litigation.
To avoid potential difficulties in future, we always encourage clients that if they reach an amicable agreement with their former partner in relation to their children’s living arrangements, they should document that by way of Consent Orders. That provides a safeguard and certainty for both parents and, most importantly, stability and routine for the children whilst sheltering them from future conflict.
For help contact our Family Law team on 1800 600 664 or send us an email at email@example.com
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