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Resolving family disputes can be made an easier process when shifted outside the legal system, writes MUKTESH CHIBBER
When we enter a marriage we sign up for a life journey together and hope that the testing moments can strengthen and restore our relationship. Whilst we all seek happiness in life, and we expect happiness once we tie the knot with our life partner, this is not always the case.
The contemporary reality is that separation and divorce have become the fabric of family life. Separation is painful. For some it is emotionally and financially catastrophic. The question is, how do we make the separation process less painful? Or do we want to continue making the process unpleasant and distasteful, or to punish the partner with whom we once shared our dreams? How many couples can ‘let go’ gracefully and how many continue to harbor painful emotions, resentment and disappointment?
Yet more distressing is the adversarial legal path. Let us not forget the irreparable long-term damage we can cause our children. How many parents can focus on protecting their children from the war zone of the adults’ emotional battle? It cannot be emphasised enough the importance of not using your children as tools to get to each other. These children will grow up to realise how their parents influenced them.
Traditional Australian family law placed a high value on parental autonomy. It took about thirty years to bring about a radical change to the Family Law Act and to introduce a ‘no fault’ based system of divorce. The current Family Law Act provides equal shared responsibility while creating an obligation for parents to communicate with each other so as to reach an agreement on issues of most importance for the child.
Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), a more collaborative model, is a shift to resolving parenting conflicts and matters concerning children and property to outside the courtroom.
In my opinion, the FDR model comparatively minimises the long-stretched emotional and financial traumatic intervention of the legal system. It enables parents to adopt a new approach of resolving conflict, by putting their unresolved adult relationship issues to one side and working cooperatively and collaboratively for the best outcomes for the children.
The main focus of the Parenting Agreement Plan process is the best interests of the child. Emphasis is placed on the importance of equal shared parental responsibility and encouraging parents to communicate with each other with regard to significant issues for the wellbeing of their children
Whilst parenting plan are not legally binding, parents can alter the parenting plan and parenting orders by returning to FDR. Parenting orders, on the other hand, are orders made by the court and can only be altered through new court orders.
Resolving conflict outside the legal system enables separated parents to take ownership of their decision and make it most practical for their family situation.
Muktesh Chibber is a couples and family therapist, and a family law mediator. She has 25 years of experience working in Australia.
If you need help or support:
Indian Family Relationship Services – Culturally sensitive services (Hindi, Punjabi) 0425 367 617
Relationships Australia – 1300 735 030