It’s important to get advice at an early stage. But when exactly should you see a lawyer after separation? If you see one early, you can be empowered with knowledge about what you should do, and what you should avoid.
Don’t risk being misinformed by well-meaning friends, family or colleagues. Even if they have been through a separation, ever circumstance is unique. Things that may have applied to them may not necessarily apply to you.
It may be that there are some steps that need to be taken in the near future after separation, to protect your interests. In other circumstances, it may be that no steps need to be taken for some time. Then naturally, one or both people may want some breathing space before starting negotiations to formalise their property settlement or parenting arrangements. However, we recommend you get advice early. This way, you have the reassurance that you are making informed decisions from an early stage.
Separation & Social Media
When you’re going through a separation, it can be tempting to vent about your ex partner on social media. However, it is important that you are mindful of what you say online. Anything you post online is public and has the potential to affect your family law matter. It doesn’t matter how impressive your security settings are, the Court considers posts on social media to occur in a public forum. Not to mention, if you have even one mutual friend with the other party, anything you post could get back to them. This can affect any future relationship you may wish to have with your former partner, even as friends, particularly if you have children.
Your social media posts, comments, and even memes you share could be used as evidence by the other party. If you are involved in a parenting matter, what you share online could be used to demonstrate your attitude towards parenting, or your willingness (or unwillingness) to facilitate a relationship between the child/ren and the other parent, either of which could be detrimental to your case. The Court is seeing an increasing number of Facebook posts annexed to affidavits; you don’t want yours to be one of them!
1. Be mindful of what you are posting about your child. Any posts about your child are directly relevant to your approach to parenting.
2. Consider what you include in your financial disclosure. If you have stated that you are struggling to make ends meet, you shouldn’t be posting pictures of your brand new sports car or luxury holiday destination (though you should be disclosing it!).
3. Before you make any post, especially in anger, give yourself some time to cool off. Come back and review what you said later, and only hit the post button if you would be happy for the Judge to see it in Court.
1. Don’t post about your Court proceedings while they are ongoing. Or even when they are finished. You may inadvertently share something you shouldn’t. You especially want to avoid posts that include identifying information of any other parties to the case. It is an offence under the Family Law Act for a person to publish any account of family law proceedings that identifies a party to the proceedings, or any other person involved.
2. Don’t disparage your ex partner or their family. This will reflect poorly on you in court, and may influence the outcome of your matter. This has happened in cases, including a case where social media communications were used to demonstrate conflict and a lack of respect between the parents, which resulted in one parent receiving less time with the child. In parenting matters, you should also consider the impact that any posts of this nature could have on your child, especially if they are old enough to have social media accounts and see the posts themselves.
3. Don’t make posts when you are feeling angry or spiteful. You don’t want the other party providing to the Court your comments that you are using the court system to get back at them.
Creating A Parenting Arrangement
You don’t need to make an Application to the Court to come to a parenting arrangement for your children. If possible, you and the other parent should try to reach an agreement regarding care arrangements. If you are able to reach agreement, you have two options to formalise this:
Signing a Parenting Plan
A Parenting Plan is a written agreement between parents regarding children’s care arrangements. It is not registered in any court and is not enforceable. Parties will often make a Parenting Plan if they come to agreement at Mediation.
Applying for Consent Orders
Consent Orders are binding Orders made by the Court regarding the care of children in terms agreed by the parents. Before the Orders are made, the Court must consider whether the agreement reached is in the best interests of the children.
Whether you should enter into a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders will depend on you and your situation. No two parenting matters are the same and there is no one size fits all answer. However, most of the time, Consent Orders are the better option as they are binding on you both. This means that neither parent can withhold the children or unilaterally change the arrangement.
Parenting Orders are also a little more difficult to change after they are made. Unless there is a substantial or significant change in circumstances, Orders cannot be changed. Therefore, if a parent simply decides that they are no longer happy with the Consent Orders that they entered into, it is unlikely that a Court would change the Orders as there has not been a significant change.
Parenting Plans are flexible and easily changed, so they may be useful where the child is an infant and their needs are rapidly changing. However, they do not provide you with the protection of Consent Orders as they are not binding. We often say that the two people best able to make arrangements for their children are the parents, as they know their children better than others. Therefore, you should only commence Court proceedings when you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent.