When you and your spouse cannot agree on parental arrangements for your children after separation or divorce, you have the option of applying to the Federal Circuit Court. Before you start the application process, however, there are some things you need to know.
First, there are pre-application procedures. One such pre-application procedure is that you and your spouse must go through family dispute resolution. A registered family dispute practitioner will sit down with you and your spouse to help you arrive at an agreement regarding parental arrangements.
If you can agree, then you won’t have to litigate before the court. The dispute resolution practitioner will issue a certificate attesting to your agreement which the court can then put in a consent order.
If you cannot agree before the family dispute resolution practitioner, then the officer will issue a certification stating that you have exerted genuine efforts to settle the dispute but you were unable to. You will need to present this before the court.
Second, you need to pay filing fees. Going to court entails payment of filing fees and this is over and above what you may need to pay your lawyer who will represent you and prepare the documents you need to submit to the court. You must also consider that an application to the courts will take time and this will be time spent away from your job or your children.
Third, you need to fill out the proper application form. There are several orders which you can ask the court to issue on your behalf but you must specify which specific action you want the court to do for you. You will also need to fill out the proper application form accurately.
Fourth, you will need to submit an affidavit. An affidavit is a sworn document where you assert the facts you are relying upon. The facts should be things you know to be true based on personal knowledge. They must be all the facts that the court needs to satisfy itself that you deserve the orders you are applying for. And all the facts you assert in the affidavit must be accurate.
Fifth, the court will set an initial hearing.
At this initial hearing, the court may give directions: giving you certain tasks to fulfill such as filing certain documents. If during the initial hearing you and your spouse have already reached an agreement, then the court may issue the consent order that embodies your agreement. The court may also set an interim hearing or finalise the application. The court may also set a final hearing date.
Sixth, you and your spouse will present evidence and then you and your spouse will get the chance to cross-examine each other. If an Independent Children’s Lawyer has been appointed by the court to represent your children, he or she will also be given the opportunity to present evidence.
An expert (such as a family consultant) may also present evidence. And then you and your spouse will be given the opportunity to make final comments in a closing address.
Applying to the courts for parenting orders or financial orders is a long and laborious process that you want to avoid. If you cannot avoid applying to the courts, you will need an experienced family lawyer to represent you.