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After marriage and family relationship breakdown you may find you need assistance with trying to work out a formal plan about where the children will live and what arrangements need to be in place to support and allow the children are able to spend time with both their parents.

This has sometimes been called working out who gets child custody, but recent changes in the language used in Family Law Act mean there is now a greater emphasis placed on the parents having responsibility to work out an agreement and placing the rights of the child to a meaningful relationship with both their parents at the centre, not the individual rights and interests of the adults.

Where parents can’t agree, they sometimes need the Court to assist them to put in place Orders about the ‘lives with’ and ‘spends time with’ arrangements for their children.

Before this stage, family lawyers will usually recommend to our client that both parties should discuss arrangements for the children with the assistance of a Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) practitioner.

Participating in FDR is compulsory before commencing any family law legal proceedings in relation to your children.

At MatthewsFolbigg, we find that better progress is usually made if parents are able to seek specialist legal advice at the early stage of a separation.

Having access to specialist family law advice can allow you to understand your rights, obligations and responsibilities as a parent after separation. Timely child custody advice can equip you to weigh your options and feel more confident about participating in both informal discussions or more structured discussions about child issues such as with a family law mediator or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDR practitioner).  The FDR practitioner can be a specialist family law counsellor or mediator.

At Matthews Folbigg we can recommend to our clients the names of experienced FDR providers who would be available to assist you and the other parent to participate in family dispute resolution to work on discussing arrangements for the children. Sometimes parents are not able to reach a final agreement about their children in FDR, but they have been assisted to narrow the issues in dispute between them.

Sometimes you will need a family lawyer to assist you to finalise the negotiations with the other party by speaking to the other party’s lawyer or taking an agreement reached during FDR writing it written up into terms of settlement which can be signed by both parties and then be filed in the Court as a joint application for binding Consent Orders, which are also enforceable by the Court, without having to resort to a Court hearing or needing a judge to decide for them.

Where communication has completely broken down or a settlement can not be informally reached between the parents, an application may have to be made to the Court for a judge to make the decision.

It is important to emphasise that there are ongoing opportunities for settlement of the proceedings after filing an application in relation to children and parenting issues in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The family law team at Matthews Folbigg can assist you to try to resolve the child custody issues by negotiation, preferring where possible to reach an agreement with the other parent without having to resort to a court hearing.

Speak to one of them today.

Click here for more information on child custody.

For advice about negotiating a Property Settlement Agreement contact us on 1800 300 170 or email us at

Family law situations can be complex and sometimes they can involve serious issues.  Information outlined is proposed to provide general guidance only. Due to the seriousness of legal matters as well as the uniqueness of your individual situation, professional advice should be sought. For advice, please contact one of our Family Lawyers.