If you and your former partner can’t agree on parenting arrangements, you may need to apply to a court to make parenting orders. If there’s a dispute about what orders the court should make, there will be a hearing (known as a trial) at which both parties can provide evidence. Evidence can include testimony from witnesses and various documents (including expert reports, emails, photographs, text messages and social media activity).

If you’re thinking about taking legal action, we recommend that you consider the following:

  • It takes a long time for a custody issue to get to trial. In some cases, it can take years. While waiting for your trial date, the court may hold several minor hearings to check progress. If you have lawyers, they usually attend these hearings on your behalf. Your lawyers will also put much time and effort into preparing for the trial. It means that custody cases can be expensive – often costing each party tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees – so you need to consider the time and financial cost of going to trial
  • When you start a child custody legal action, you may have to produce all documents or other evidence relevant to your case. Also, you may be required to answer questions or give reasons for your decisions, even if they don’t help your case
  • Court cases are often stressful, which can impact you and your children
  • Taking legal action means the court is asked to decide what happens to your children. You won’t have control over the decision, and in most cases, you will have to accept the outcome
  • Depending on the ages of your children, you may have to deal with the other parent for many more years. Maintaining a good long-term relationship is often easier if you can reach an agreement without going to court

For more information, see our Australian Parenting Orders Guide.

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