It’s 6:00am on the morning of Sunday, 14 May. Only the avid cyclists are out and about on their rides or post ride coffees. Birds are chirping in the Poinciana tree outside your window. The sun begins to creep through the blinds and fill your room with natural light. You lie there peacefully and with not a care in the world. Until suddenly, the bedroom door bursts open. In come six-year-old Johnny and four-year-old Lucy - your two beautiful children giggling with excitement. They race each other to the bed, give you big hugs and kisses, and inundate you with handmade Mother’s Day cards and gifts. Sounds blissful right?
Now imagine missing out on this experience because your former spouse has withheld the children from seeing you on that special day. Be it out of spite or something more revengeful, your former spouse could get away with this behaviour and face no repercussion.
What should you do?
To reduce your children experiencing uncertainty or conflict surrounding separation, it is crucial that parents try to reach an agreement about arrangements for their children, including:
- where the children live
- who the children spend time with and communicate with
- how decisions will be made for the children
- childcare or schooling
- medical issues
You’ve reached an agreement – what next?
Any agreement should be recorded in a ‘Consent Order’. This involves the drafting of an Application for Consent Orders and Minutes of Consent.
These documents, particularly the Minutes of Consent, can be complex. Parties should therefore seek advice from experienced family lawyers to assist in the negotiations and drafting of those documents.
What are the benefits of a Consent Order?
A Consent Order (containing the agreement about arrangements for the children) is legal and binding upon the parents. It provides certainty to those arrangements, which in turn reduces conflict between parents and limits the disruption or harm the children may experience.
If a parent then decides to not obey the Consent Order (without a reasonable excuse), there is recourse for the other parent to prosecute that parent’s behaviour. The repercussions can include compensation for time lost, fines, a variation of the agreement in the Consent Order, a bond, and in extreme cases, imprisonment.
How long will it take from start to finish?
Unfortunately, a Consent Order cannot happen overnight. This is because the documents must be lodged and approved by the Court. In our experience the Court can take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks.
What if you can’t agree?
It is not always possible for people to agree on arrangements for children. If that is you, you should urgently seek advice from an experienced family lawyer about your options.
Take away point
With Mother’s Day fast approaching this leaves a small but achievable window of time to get a Consent Order in place.