A year from now….

With January already behind us, 2018 is already starting to roll ahead.

By now, the kids at both private and state schools are all back and slowing settling into their new classes and after school sports and activities. Those separated parents that are on week about or alternate weekend time, have probably by now restarted their schedules and are colouring in calendars to make sure everyone knows where they are meant to be and when. After the busyness of the school holidays, life is now finally starting to return to some semblance of “normal”.

On the one hand, February and March might be a great opportunity to take a breath and get back to just focusing on the day to day for a while.

From a family law perspective however, while talking about what might be happening a year from now may seem a world away, within the confines of the family law system, now is actually probably the time to start thinking ahead to try and head off any potential problems that may arise this time next year.

Maybe the kids are due to go from primary school to high school and a decision is yet to be made on what school they are going to attend. Maybe you’re looking ahead to book an overseas holiday for next Christmas or the kids have a ski trip or a Chinese immersion trip coming up in November where they will need to have passports organised in advance.

Before you start transferring the funds towards the deposits for the holiday bookings or that important school trip or even securing the deposits for the secondary school enrollment, it might be a good opportunity to start discussing with your former partner now about those important events that are coming up and trying to reach an agreement at an early stage.

While we as lawyers can assist with those negotiations, in the first instance they can, in appropriate circumstances, be kept relatively informal. Sending a quick email, maybe even catching up for a coffee with your former partner at this time of year, might be all that is required to raise those issues and get a basic idea of what needs to happen and an agreement can be reached relatively easily.

If, however, things aren’t so amicable with your former partner then seeing one of us sooner rather than later to get the ball rolling as far as letters or family dispute resolution to try and resolve those issues is a good idea.

If a decision can’t be reached on important things like international travel, passports or the school that the kids will attend for high school then a Court application and determination may be required.

While the addition of new judges recently appointed to the Federal Circuit Court will hopefully assist in reducing the present delays, in my experience, you should still allow at least 6 to 9 months to ensure there is enough time for any Court application to be filed, opportunities to resolve the matter exhausted, and then ultimately a Court hearing held and the decision published.

So while it may seem that January 2019 is a world away, now is a great opportunity to sit down and spend 5 minutes thinking ahead and trying to head off any potential problems now before it’s all too late.