Case Study: Parenting Matter Custody of Baby

Summary of Facts: parties separated not long after the birth of the child, father did not see the child for several months and was seeking shared care, mother was seeking step-up of time, allegations made of mental health concerns, drug use and parental alienation.

In this case, the mother of the child came to see us immediately after separating from her partner. We immediately sent correspondence to the father to arrange some contact between him and the child. The father did not agree with the proposed time and we spent some time negotiating between the parties. While some initial contact was arranged, communication broke down between the parties and we did not hear from the father for several months during this time he had no contact with the child.

Parenting Matter Custody of Baby

The next contact we had was when we were served with documents for court proceedings. The child was about 8 months old. There were some concerns raised in relation to drug use within the paternal family and the general care of the child while in the father's care. The father raised concerns in relation to the mother's mental health and made accusations of parental alienation. We continued to negotiate time between the parties and managed reach an agreement for a step-up of time without court intervention.

We continued to negotiate outside of court throughout the year long proceedings. After attending a court ordered conference, the parties did not reach any agreement in relation to parenting matters. The mother maintained that a step-up of time was necessary and the father maintained that the child should spend overnight time with him.

With no agreement after one year of proceedings, and with the child almost two years of age, the court ordered the parties to attend a further mediation prior to commencing trial. Without the need for mediation, we assisted in negotiations and the preparation of Minutes of Consent which were agreed on. The agreement allowed for the child to spend meaningful time with the father which would increase in increments to ensure that the child was emotionally able to cope with the change to their living arrangements.

The court considered the proposed orders and determined that they were in the child's best interest as they ensured that both parents had a meaningful relationship with the child.

Take note: the court prefers that parties reach an agreement between themselves and takes a preference for mediation before trial. When there is one party who is the primary carer for a very young child, the court is unlikely to make drastic changes to their living arrangements and prefers a step-up of time to ensure that the child is able to cope with any changes.

This information does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to obtain independent legal advice relevant to your situation.

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