Before applying to the court for Orders about children, you are required to engage in Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), such as mediation, and try to resolve the issues outside of court. You are now required to file a Certificate stating you have done this, or have not done this for a good reason (such as urgency or family violence exemption).

There are a raft of forms and documents that are required to be filed with your application. These are:

1. an Initiating Application (or a Response if proceedings have already been started);
2. an Affidavit (if seeking interim orders)
3. a Notice of child abuse, family violence or risk
4. a copy of any family violence order affecting the child or a member of the child’s family, if applicable;
5. a Genuine Steps Certificate, and
6. a Parenting Questionnaire.

Once the matter is before the Court you may be allocated an interim hearing date before a Judge or Senior Judicial Registrar who will make short terms orders for your children. Such orders are usually made after an interim hearing and are made pending final hearing or any other Court Orders. These are called ‘interim orders’ and they generally continue until you either reach final agreement or the Judge makes a determination following a hearing that may span anywhere from 1 to 10 days (generally 2-3 in less complex matters).

At all times, the paramount consideration for the court is the best interest of the children. When determining the best interests of children, the court must consider the benefit to children of having a meaningful relationship with each of their parents and the need to protect the children from harm or risk of harm. The Court must give greater weight to the need to protect the children from harm or the risk of harm.

Do my children get a say?

Your child will never be asked to attend Court to speak directly to a Judge. The Court may make an order for your children to attend upon a Court Child Expert for interview. The expert will interview you, your former partner and your children. The expert will then write a report to the Court which may include the children’s views, their opinions on their experiences and their understanding of what is happening to them.

The court may also make an Order appointing an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) to represent the children during the proceedings. The ICL’s role is to form an independent and impartial view, based on available evidence, of what is in the best interests of the children and then act in those best interests. They do not prepare reports or file documents. They may interview your children and provide an opinion to the court after reviewing the parties documents, material produced under subpoena, interview with the children and other persons (such as the child’s school teachers).