Family Legal Advice

Legal Advice on Setting Up the Parent Contact Plan

Children often suffer the most during and after divorce proceedings because they face uncertainty, their lives are disrupted, they may even need to relocate, they miss their father or mother, and various other reasons. As such, we recommend seeking legal family advice, whether you plan on getting divorced, or are already divorced and have a dispute about parental rights, or need assistance in setting up a plan for contact that meets the changing needs of your children.

Following the correct legal procedures can help minimise the effects of the divorce on the family. Seeking legal family advice before taking any steps, especially if you are uncertain about the correctness of the steps, is essential. To get you started, we provide basic information about contact rights, but strongly recommend that you seek legal advice regarding any aspects related to parental rights, divorce, child maintenance, parental contact planning, and family matters in general.

Parenting Plan

The parenting plan contains the details regarding contact with the children by the parent at the alternate residence during the week, weekends, and holiday periods, with due consideration of the children’s extra-mural, school and social activities and interests. It is important to understand that factors such as jobs, work hours of the parents, distance between the addresses of the parents, the ages of the children, and more must be taken into consideration when working out the parenting plan. It is especially important to consider the rights of the children and their interests. The ideal parenting plan will work for the entire family.

Contact with the Children

The contact times given below, according to the recommendations of the Office of the Family Advocate from the Department of Justice, should only be used as guidelines and not as legal advice, since the contact depends on various factors.

Age 0-6 Months

If there is weekly contact, the recommendation is about three hours per contact, but if the time allocated is shorter, the frequency of visits should be more. Because of the young age and difficulty in adapting to new environments at this age, overnight contact and vacation stays are not recommended.

Age 7-19 Months

Regular contact is recommended based on the same periods and duration as for children aged 0-6 months. No overnight and vacation stays are recommended.

Age 18-36 Months

Weekly contact with the other parent is recommended, and the children should be allowed to visit the parent for a portion of or an entire day during the weekend periods. Children at the age of three years can stay overnight and spend vacations (one week at a time) at the alternate parent. However, several factors must be taken into consideration, and as such, we recommend seeking legal family advice regarding the consideration of the factors.

Age 3-5 Years

In this age group, it is essential to ensure predictability of contact. Weekly contact is recommended, with full weekends or two other days and nights during the week with overnight stay. Children should be allowed to spend vacation time with the alternate parent. For younger children, the recommendation is one week or longer, and two weeks for the older children in the age group.

Age 6-12 Years

The same frequency of contact as for the age group 3-5 years is recommended. However, an additional overnight stay is allowed at this age, with two weeks or longer vacation visits at the alternate parent. According to the Office of the Family Advocate’s recommendations, the parents can also arrange for the exchange of their primary residence during the school holiday periods, with the reversed contact recommendations applicable during the periods.

Older than 12 Years

At this stage, the parents should look at the specific needs of the teenager with due consideration of their social, school, and extra-mural needs. Parental supervision must be in place with optional overnight stays. Vacation contact and the planning of visits should take the schedule and needs of the teenagers into consideration.

More about Holiday Contact

The length of the school holiday must be taken into consideration. If it is a short holiday, then the children can stay with the alternate parent for the one short school holiday, and at the primary residence parent for the other short school holiday in the given year. For longer holidays, the age and maturity of the child, as well as their specific needs, must be taken into consideration.

If the child has difficulty in being away from their primary residence for prolonged periods, then it is better to have the child visit for shorter periods. Work out a plan to meet the family’s needs. Make use of our legal advice and professional assistance in setting up and maintaining or disputing the parent contact plan.

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