Parenting Proceedings – A “Do Not Do” List

Unfortunately when parents separate, it is sometimes the case that they cannot agree on what living arrangements should be put into place for their child or children. Sometimes they both believe that their proposal is better for their children. Despite the assistance of mediators and if possible specialist Family Lawyers, agreements are not always possible.

When this happens there is little other option but to commence litigation.

Parenting proceedings are an extremely emotional process. How could they not be, they involve your children who are sometimes very young or other times have complicated personal or health needs.

However, parenting litigation is a complicated process. The Court’s obligation is to ensure that the living arrangements for children are in their best interests. Seems simple right? Sadly it is not always the case.

Our “Do Not Do” List represents some critical mistakes that parents can make in a litigation process and our attempt to help our clients and potential clients avoid these same mistakes.

1. DO NOT REPRESENT YOURSELF
Without a doubt, parenting litigation is complex and costly. Understandably some litigants feel they have no option but to represent themselves to save money. However, in our experience this can have disastrous results.

Parenting proceedings, as with any litigation process involve so many legal processes and nuances that only those with day to day experience, built up over a vast number of years, know about.

If you can’t afford a lawyer to deal with the “day in – day out” aspects of your matter then if at all possible have an experienced Family Law specialist retained to give you advice on what to expect at Court proceedings or save your funds to have them with you on the Court events.

As a parent you are too emotionally invested in the outcome (understandably so) to understand, appreciate and comply with the many legal and substantive steps that are involved in litigation.

2. DO NOT LIE
This may seem simple and arguable ought to not need to be said, however sometimes litigants, embellish, exaggerate or outright lie in an attempt to improve their position before the Court.

Our advice is simple. Don’t lie. Don’t lie to your lawyer. Don’t lie to Court appointed experts. Don’t lie to the Court.

If your dishonesty is discovered, which it is likely to be, your credibility will be irreparably damaged. The family law Courts are Courts of impression and you will be very hard pushed to repair the damage that you have done.

It is also important to be honest with yourself about why you are adopting a certain stance in your proceedings. Is it truly because you think the proposal is in your child or children’s best interests?

3. DO NOT BREACH COURT ORDERS – NO EXCEPTIONS OR COMPLAINTS
Whilst you may not always agree with the Orders that the Court makes – particularly on a short term or interim basis, comply with them.

If the other parent chooses to breach the Orders (or “bend” compliance with them), be the parent that sticks to them.

The Judge will remember the party that does not comply with their Orders. Again, in a Court of impression you want to be the parent that shows respect for authority and the process that you are involved in.

Further there are significant consequences for being held to have contravened Court Orders. These consequences can include children’s time with you being reduced, fines, bonds or ultimately imprisonment.

4. DO NOT AVOID LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF OR EDUCATING YOURSELF
Ask questions. However, even if the answer is not what you want to hear, accept it and learn from it. You are entitled to ask questions and you are entitled to answers. However, remember the old adage “don’t shoot the messenger”.

Don’t bottle up your emotions. Find an outlet – a healthy one – and make the most of it. Failure to do so may result in your physical and mental health suffering. Children need healthy parents, physically and mentally.

5. DO NOT COACH YOUR CHILDREN
In the vast majority of parenting litigation, Court appointed experts will meet with your children. These people are experts in reading children’s behaviours and responses. They provide the Court with invaluable independent evidence about children’s experiences, views and wishes.

We are often asked about how to prepare a child for this process. The required preparation is dependent on the child’s age and developmental status.

It is one thing to explain the process in general to a child but it is another to seek to use the chance to explain to fill your child’s head with rehearsed statements about the other parent or “helpful” suggestions about events that occurred that the child ought to tell the expert about.

This conduct will never result in a favourable outcome for a child. Firstly it will unnecessarily involve a child in an adult conflict which will cause them worry and stress that children do not deserve. Secondly, it involves potentially disparaging their other parent, whom that child loves and adores.

It will backfire and it will backfire with disastrous consequences. Talk with your lawyer about child focussed and age appropriate preparation for a family report or other expert interview.

No matter what stage you are at with your parenting discussions or disputes, Marino Law’s expert Family Law team can give you practical, efficient and cost effective guidance. Call to speak with us now.