Children’s Matters

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When children are involved in a divorce or separation it adds an extra layer of complication and heightened emotion to the mix. Parents usually agree they want what’s best for their children, but often disagree about what’s reasonable when it comes to child custody and child support.

Bryant McKinnon’s specialised family lawyers have over 40 years collective experience working with families and understand the careful balance and care needed to ensure that children’s interests are met. Partner Heather McKinnon is the only private practice lawyer in the Coffs Coast region recognised as a Qualified Independent Children’s Lawyer. We bring compassion and common sense to children’s matters and will always have your child’s best interests at heart.

Parenting Arrangements (formerly “Child Custody”)

Parenting arrangements used to be known by terms such as “child custody”, “residence”, “contact” or “access”. Whatever phrase you use, the bottom line when it comes to the law is that your child’s safety and emotional well-being always comes first.

Where separation is amicable it’s often possible to reach an informal arrangement about how often children will spend time with each parent and the sharing of special events such as birthdays and Christmas. When these arrangements are undocumented, the risk is that if a dispute does occur later on, there is no record of the agreement to reference.

Parenting Plans are written agreements that record the agreed care arrangements for children, including where they will live, the allocation of parenting responsibilities, communication with children and a process for resolving disputes. You can create a Parenting Plan at any stage of separation. This type of plan is not a legal document filed with the Family Court, so it is not enforceable. However, the discussions involved in setting out a detailed plan, often reduce the likelihood of dispute down the track.

A parenting agreement can be legally formalized by an Application for Consent Orders filed with the Family Court. Known as Parents Orders, these agreements are legally binding until your children are 18 years of age and can be subject to Contravention Application if one parent refuses to comply with their obligations under the Order.

If you need assistance in negotiating parenting arrangements or in deciding which type of agreement is best suited to your circumstances please feel free to contact us.

Child Support

The financial support of children can be a complicated and contentious issue. There is a broad range of variables to consider, and situations can be expected to change over time. It’s a good idea to get the advice of an expert family lawyer before finalising financial arrangements.

Under the Child Support (Assessment) Act, the primary carer of a child can make a claim for child support from the other parent. The federal Department of Human Services is responsible for determining the amount of support to be provided, based on income, number of children and living arrangements. There is a Child Support Estimator available on their website to help you estimate the likely payments.

It is possible to enter into a private child support agreement, without having to go through the Department of Human Services.

How Bryant McKinnon Lawyers Can Help

Our experienced and specialised legal qualifications enable us to provide:

  • Advice on parenting arrangements that will be in the best interests of your children;
  • Assistance negotiating and formalising parenting arrangements;
  • Assistance negotiating and formalising private child support agreements;
  • Representation in Family Court, if necessary.

If you are seeking divorce or separation and would like advice or assistance from a lawyer to ensure the best outcomes for your children, please contact us.