CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS – A SIMPLIFIED SUMMARY
• PROCEEDINGS COMMENCED – Parent/significant person files in the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court an Initiating Application (document setting out what interim and final parenting Orders the Respondent wants the Court to make), and Affidavits (sworn/affirmed written statements setting out the evidence the Applicant says justifies the Court making the parenting Orders the Applicant wants);
• COURT DATE GIVEN – the Court lists the matter for an initial mention/hearing on a future date, and writes that date on extra copies of the Initiating Application and Affidavits filed by the Applicant;
• RESPONDENT SERVED – the Applicant has a copy of the Initiating Application and Affidavits personally given to the Respondent(s) (who is often the other parent, but may also be a significant person in the child’s life);
• RESPONDENT HAS THEIR ‘SAY’ – if the Respondent wants to have a say in the proceedings, the Respondent files a Response (document setting out the parenting Orders the Respondent wants the Court to make) and Affidavits (sworn/affirmed written statements setting out the evidence the Respondent says justifies the Court making the parenting Orders the Respondent wants);
• FIRST MENTION/HEARING – the Court makes interim Orders (temporary parenting Orders) based on the evidence contained within the parties’ Affidavits (this is often a very difficult task as the parties’ Affidavit evidence often conflicts, and the Court can then usually only make a decision on agreed facts and facts clearly borne out by the written material);
• FAMILY REPORT COMPILED – an expert (usually an experienced psychologist) interviews the parties, and sometimes the children, observes the parties and the children and releases a written report whereby ‘expert’ recommendations about what parenting arrangements should apply are often made;
• FINAL HEARING MATERIAL PREPARATION – the parties file and serve an updated Initiating Application / Response (if appropriate) and Affidavits;
• FINAL HEARING – the parties and other witnesses (like the Family Report writer) give oral testimony, and a Judge (who observes the testimony) uses the testimony, and other evidence (like Affidavits, Family Report, and further subpoenaed evidence such as police records) to decide on what final parenting Orders will be made;
• FINAL ORDERS – the Judge makes final Orders, which are indeed final and will remain in place until the parties agree otherwise, or until further Order (which is only obtainable if there has been a ‘significant change in circumstances’).
This article was written by child custody solicitor, Kyle Barram. Kyle heads our team of child custody solicitors in Townsville.