The Australian family landscape is dotted with empty nests, the homes of separated families, where children shuttle between two households and parents and other family members try to rebuild their lives.
The number of separated families in Australia is growing. This has a significant impact on a child’s life. They may experience emotional distress, social isolation and academic problems. They may also have to deal with complex financial arrangements and custody arrangements.
Despite the challenges, separated parents and families can thrive. Children can adjust to their new family structure with the right social and emotional support and build strong relationships with both parents.
Complex Family Issues That Cause Separation
There are many reasons why families separate. Sometimes, it’s a matter of irreconcilable differences. Other times, it’s due to abuse, addiction, or infidelity. Whatever the reason, separation can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved.
- Intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence is another common cause of family separation. This can take many forms, including physical, financial, and emotional abuse. Families can be very difficult to stay together when one partner is abused. You can seek advice from a domestic violence hotline such as 1800Respect (National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line).
- Financial problems. Financial problems can also put a strain on families and lead to separation. When families are struggling to make ends meet, it can be challenging to maintain a happy and healthy relationship.
- Communication problems. Communication problems are another common cause of family separation. When couples are unable to communicate effectively, it can lead to resentment, anger, and frustration. These emotions can make it difficult to resolve problems and stay together.
- Infidelity. Infidelity is another major cause of family separation. When one partner cheats on the other, rebuilding trust and moving on can be very difficult.
- Other factors. Many other factors can contribute to family separation, such as substance abuse, mental health problems, and cultural differences.
If you are experiencing family separation, there are resources available to help you. You can contact a family lawyer, a counsellor, or programs that are understanding and supporting parents.
Living and Parenting Arrangements After Separation
Married, de facto, or same-sex parents and caregivers like grandparents, are all subject to the Family Law Act 1975 in the same way.
Without assuming anything about gender or the distribution of parental responsibilities within a family, it guarantees that children have the right to continue having meaningful interactions with both parents.
This means that during a divorce, neither spouse is automatically entitled to raise their children alone or make decisions on behalf of the other parent.
Some parents verbally agree on the parenting and living arrangements after separation. Also, they can put it into writing and sign the agreement. Parenting plans or agreements reduce conflict and encourages teamwork for the sake of the future of their children.
Moreover, these plans can specify financial agreements and living arrangements, thus protecting children and their best interests. As your child’s needs evolve, you can adapt your parenting strategy. If you agree and decide to make it enforceable, you can submit an online application for a parenting consent order with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
A parenting order includes the following agreements:
- where the children live
- who they have contact with
- what happens about other issues such as schooling, medical
- or religious observance
- if co-parenting arrangements are possible
However, the court will decide what is in the children’s best interests. A court hearing will be conducted to finalise the parenting order.
Effects of Family Separation
Family separation can have a significant impact on individuals and families in Australia. Some of the most common effects of family separation include:
- Emotional distress. Family separation can be a very stressful and emotional experience. Individuals and families may experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and guilt.
- Behavioural problems. Family separation can also lead to behavioral problems in children and adolescents. These problems may include aggression, withdrawal, and academic problems.
- Financial problems. Family separation can also have a financial impact. Individuals and families may have to take on more financial responsibility, and they may experience a decrease in income.
- Health problems. Family separation can also lead to health problems. Individuals and families may experience increased stress-related illnesses, such as anxiety and depression.
Non-court-Based Family Services
To cope up with the effects of family separation, there are community-based services that can help you and your family include:
- Family counselling – Families, relationships, marriage, separation, and divorce all have personal and interpersonal concerns that need to be addressed. This is done through the process of family counseling.
- Family dispute resolution – A family dispute resolution (FDR) practitioner works with individuals to assist them settle some or all of their disagreements with one another during and after separation and divorce. Visit this website to get a list of FDR services.
- Arbitration – The parties to a dispute offer arguments and evidence to an arbitrator during the arbitration process, who then decides how to settle the ongoing conflict. The Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators (AIFLAM) can provide you with a list of arbitrators.
What If We Can’t Reach an Agreement?
If you are unable to come to an agreement, you might think about asking the court for orders. For many people, going to court is frequently a stressful experience. Additionally, it could be costly and time-consuming. However, there are situations when it’s the only option for resolving a conflict.
It is possible to come to an agreement at any point, without the necessity for a court hearing, even after a court application has been filed. In reality, only a very small portion of matters that are initially brought before a court require a judicial official to render a final ruling.
Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)
You must attend FDR and acquire a certificate from a licensed FDR provider before you apply to the Court for a parenting order, including those seeking changes to an existing parenting order.
However, there are specific situations where this rule is not applicable, including:
- those involving family violence and safety concerns
- child abuse, or
- extreme urgency.
Seek Legal Advice First
If you are considering separation or have separated, you should seek legal advice. Our family lawyers at JB Solicitors can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities and explain how the law applies to your case. We can also explain and help you reach an agreement with your former partner without going to court.
Contact us today.