In the typical Family Law matter involving children, the Court will order both parties to attend a Child Dispute Conference.
You may be wondering what precisely the reason for this Conference is and why you have to attend.
The purpose of this article is to provide a quick summary of what a Child Dispute Conference is and what things you need to be aware of.
What Happens At a Child Dispute Conference?
A Child Dispute Conference is a meeting that the Court orders to meet with a family consultant. This Conference aims to resolve any issues amongst the parents of the children. It also seeks to reach a compromise concerning parenting arrangements and any other particular problems involving their children.
A Child Dispute Conference can be thought of as somewhat of an initial assessment of the family dynamic so that the most important information can be provided to the Court. There may also be some opportunity to facilitate negotiation in the Conference if time allows for it.
What Is The Main Purpose Of a Child Dispute Conference?
The primary purpose of a Child Dispute Conference is for the Family Consultant to meet with both parties and explore the various issues contended and ascertain the needs of the children.
From here, the Family Consultant will analyse the risk factors involved with each party and attempt to facilitate an agreement regarding parenting arrangements for the children. If an agreement cannot be reached in the Conference, the information discovered in the Conference will be provided to the Court.
Who Is a Family Consultant?
A Family Consultant is typically a Court-appointed social worker, psychologist or counsellor. Their background is also in working with families and children, which is reflected by their qualifications, skills, and experience.
In some instances, the Court may order what is known as a “Child Inclusive Conference”, where the family consultant would interview the children separated to the other parties in the matter.
What Happens After The Child Dispute Conference?
After the Child Dispute Conference has concluded, the Family Consultant will prepare a brief report to the Judge containing a summary of the issues in the dispute, the recommendations made in the Conference, and whether any agreements were made amongst the children’s parents or guardians.
The solicitor of each party will receive a copy of the report before the next Court appearance. The Family Consultant is considered a ‘Court Expert’, so the Judge strongly considers their information in arriving at a binding decision for parenting arrangements.
Suppose you are concerned that the report of the Family Consultant is adverse to your interests. In that case, you should be aware that the Family Consultant will not always assess the matter and circumstances correctly despite their expertise. This is why the Court will consider a broader range of factors in determining your case, such as the ‘best interests of the children highlighted in the Family Law Act (1975).
How Do I Prepare For a Child Dispute Conference?
There is no one specific way to prepare for a Child Dispute Conference. This is because every matter is different.
Accordingly, the best way to prepare for a Child Dispute Conference is to discuss your matter with an experienced family lawyer.
Here are a set of factors you should take into account in your preparation:
- Familiarising yourself with the processes involved in a Child Dispute Conference
- Going into the Conference with the mindset of trying to reach a compromise with your former partner, or the other guardian of your children
- Doing what is in the best interests of your child or children, and not yourself
- Any other matters which your family lawyer will deem to be relevant in your particular circumstances
What Happens Next?
If an agreement is not reached in your initial Child Dispute Conference you may have to attend more Conferences in the future.
It is important that if you do not agree with the assessment of the Family Consultant, that you highlight any concerns that you may have with your lawyer, as these can be challenged.
Alternatively, you may wish to attend settlement negotiations to assist progressing the matter towards reaching a formal arrangement. Otherwise, you can pursue a more formal orders known as Consent Orders.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
When discussing matters such as a Child Dispute Conference, it is essential to note that while you do not necessarily need legal representation for the case, you should still have it.
This is because a Child Dispute Conference can be a crucial determining factor in both you and your children’s lives and how parenting arrangements will practically be determined.
This is why you should seek the guidance of an experienced family lawyer to help you prepare for the Conference.
Here at JB Solicitors, we’ll make the process as pain-free as possible. We have fixed-fee pricing for family law, giving you a clear sense of the costs from the start, and we will be sure to help you out every step of the way. With years of experience under our belt, we pride ourselves on making each client’s family law experience as positive as possible.
Contact JB Solicitors today to speak with one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers.
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