As I sit here, it’s early October and it already feels like the majority of the year has flown by. Last Christmas seems like an absolute world away. The Easter bunny has long since come and gone. The days are increasingly getting longer. It’s now only a matter of months before the busy run to the end of the year.
It seems quite counterintuitive to be sitting in October and talking about events which might be happening in 2020. Trust me when I say that the reason for looking so far ahead has come from sharing with clients their bitter disappointment as to what the family law system does and doesn’t offer them in terms of a speedy resolution of matters.
Chances are, at least a significant number of people reading this may well have already been through a family law parenting matter. Hopefully it was amicable. If things went well, an agreement was reached at an early stage. Maybe since that time you have updated it by way of a parenting plan. You may otherwise have a set of old parenting consent orders. Perhaps things were a bit more difficult and you ended up with orders at the end of a contested Court hearing. In any case, I sincerely hope that things have moved on and that water has found its new level as far as the children are concerned.
Even if it has been a number of years since you last did your orders or parenting plan, in a lot of matters we see orders made many years ago for parties to continue to have equal shared parental responsibility for young children. Simply by way of a bit of refresher, equal shared parental responsibility means that for long-term decision-making, parties need to consult and make a genuine attempt to reach agreement on matters concerning the long-term care, welfare and development of their children. That tends to mean that major life decisions, like a change of school or major medical treatments, will require both parties’ agreement.
If it has been a number of years since you last had orders made and the children have now grown up, at this time of year the majority of private schools are now starting to send out their statements about notice of intention to continue. If your children are changing from primary school to high school next year, there are increasing amounts of school open days and a myriad of choices as to what school the children are going to attend. Ideally, if you and your former partner are able to agree on a school or there is a single expectation about what school they would go to for high school, then there may be no dispute.
That said, if there is a dispute, the reality of the Court process and the incumbent delays means that any dispute is unlikely to be resolved at least in a matter of weeks, or more likely months. Normally, before even going to Court, both parties must attend family dispute resolution in order to try and resolve that process first. While the private process might take only a short number of weeks to complete, if you wish to try the low-cost or free alternatives offered by the family dispute resolution centres, that process might take a significant amount of time in terms of weeks in the lead-in process for intakes to be completed and mutual dates to be arranged.
The upshot of all of this is, simply, do not leave it until the last minute. Now is exactly the right time to be looking at prospective schools and talking to your former partner about what school the children should be attending next year. Maybe it is the transition from kindy to primary school, or the transition from primary school to secondary school. Perhaps you and your former partner had always intended that when the children went to senior school they would attend a private school and move from a state school.
If you have an existing order that provides for equal shared parental responsibility, it’s a great opportunity to refresh your memory as to what is actually required in order to reach an agreement with your former partner about those matters. If there is a dispute then, of course, we are able to help to try and resolve it as quickly and amicably as possible. Even then, that process might take a number of weeks or months to complete.
Now is the perfect time to get on top of those tricky issues and head off any difficulty so that the children, and yourselves, have certainty as to where everyone is going to be in 2020.
Our experienced family law solicitors are only too happy to assist should you have any queries about a change of school or any orders that you might wanted updated. You can read more about choosing a school here.