You don’t have to go to court for this. You can decide for yourselves or arrange a child custody mediation meeting and devise a parenting plan which is an informal arrangement between the two of you.
If you think you need something more formal you can apply for a parenting consent order. This is then approved by the court in your absence.
Informal arrangements and mediation are the commonest ways of sorting out child custody. The court system is not usually used unless there are other circumstances such as possible violence against the children. The mediation process is where the two parties meet with an independent mediator. The mediator’s role is to assist the parties to arrive at an agreement around child custody. This normally takes place in one meeting.
If no agreement is reached then the matter of child custody will have to go to court as the mediator does not have any legal powers. At this point, the mediator can issue a certificate (section 60I Family Law Act) that certifies the two parties had made attempts to reach an agreement about child custody, but the mediation was unsuccessful. At this point, the parties will have to solve the issue via the court system.
There are significant advantages when using mediation as you feel you have been involved in the process and have been influential when it comes to the outcome. You can also decide on a mutual date for the mediation to take place. It does not happen in a courtroom, which makes the whole event far less intimidating.
It is advisable to seek legal advice first, and your lawyer can accompany you to the mediation if both parties agree and advise you as the meeting progresses. Sometimes, mediations become heated, and one of the parents becomes more dominating and assertive. Your lawyer’s presence will ensure that you will have your say regarding child custody issues.
If a mediation agreement is reached without both of you understand your legal rights, agreements may fail. The whole process will have to start all over again, and the people most likely to suffer will be your children.