Cairns Divorce Lawyers | Family Lawyers

Child Custody Cairns

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Child Custody and Family Law Support

Child custody and parenting issues can be very stressful, even without considering the legal issues when you’re going through a divorce or ending a de facto relationship.

If you have separated – or are about to be – it’s important to get legal advice as early as possible about your children’s living arrangements and child support. You can make child custody arrangements any time after you separate from your partner (and before or after divorce).

Parents can sometimes reach an agreement between themselves about their children, but it’s important to know where you stand legally before making or seeking a formal child custody agreement through the Cairns family law courts.

Some parents might be concerned that they will lose custody. This is unusual and only occurs as a result of poor behaviour of a parent. The important thing is not to assume the worse.

Our family lawyers in Cairns are here to offer their services to help you reach a positive outcome in the best interests of your children. 

Free initial consultation

Your initial, confidential meeting with one of our family lawyers will help you start making legal decisions to protect your children and to limit the impact of changes on your family. There is no obligation - if you decide not to proceed with us, you pay nothing.

Contact our office for a confidential, obligation-free consultation with one of our lawyers.  

Call us now for a free over the phone or face to face consultation
4052 0790


Frequently Asked Questions

There is no presumption that both parents should have equal time with children. Every family is different so there are no set standards for childcare once a family splits. The care arrangements that are appropriate for each child will depend on several factors, including the age of the child.

There is however a presumption that both parents should make decisions for their children together.  This is referred to as ‘equal shared parental responsibility’.  There are some circumstances in which this presumption will not apply such as in domestic violence and child abuse situations. 

If a court makes an order for ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ then the court is required to consider whether it is appropriate to make an order that the child spends equal time with both parents. 


No. It is a requirement under the Family Law Act, 1975 that parents engage in mediation with a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner, prior to commencing court proceedings relating to their children.  There are some exceptions to the requirement of attending mediation, for example, if there is a risk to a child or the matter is urgent and cannot wait until mediation has taken place.

It is recommended that legal advice is obtained prior to mediation to better understand the process, to understand the law surrounding the child custody issues to be discussed and explain about parenting plans and consent orders so you get the most out of your mediation.

Even if you are unable to resolve all issues at mediation, we often find that it will at least narrow the issues in dispute and provide insight into the best way forward to resolve your child custody matter.

Whilst children do not get to make decisions about their care arrangements, the family law court can take their views into account.  How much weight a court will place on a child’s views will depend on their age, maturity, and whether the court considers those views have been influenced in any way.

A child should not be asked directly by a parent what care arrangements they want.  A child’s wishes are ascertained through a non-intrusive interview process with an independent person qualified to have these discussions with children.  This may include an interview to prepare a family report, or by a mediator conducting a child-inclusive mediation. More information on these processes can be obtained in an obligation free consultation with one of our family lawyers. With over 40 years’ experience, we understand how stressful and challenging this time can be.


There are two ways in which a parenting arrangement can be formalised, the first is by entering into a parenting plan, the second is by applying to the family law court for consent orders. 

There is no requirement that parenting agreements are formalised.  There are both advantages and disadvantages to parenting plans and consent orders.  For example, a parenting plan is not legally binding and cannot be enforced by the courts, they can, however, be easily changed and used as evidence in court proceedings.  Whereas, consent orders are legally binding and enforceable, however, are difficult to change without the consent of the other parent.

The best way to formalise your agreement will depend on the agreement reached and your family circumstances.  We recommend obtaining advice from a family lawyer prior to formalising your agreement.

The majority of parenting matters can be resolved outside of court, through negotiation or mediation between the parents.

Unfortunately, there are some circumstances where the parents cannot agree on the arrangements for their children which results in one parent commencing court proceedings. If court proceedings are commenced, that does not mean that the family law court will ultimately determine the arrangements for your children, there will be further opportunity for parents to reach an agreement and to continue negotiations throughout the court proceedings.

If court proceedings are commenced, a lawyer is often appointed to represent the children, this lawyer is referred to as the ‘independent children’s lawyer’.  This lawyer is often crucial in assisting the parents to reach agreement in the best interests of their children.

If you have a court order, you can apply to vary it however if you do not, you may wish to look at getting one if mediation fails to reach a satisfactory outcome. Either way, our family custody lawyers will guide you through your options and help you reach a positive outcome.

The Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia deal with matter concerning children. The same child custody laws apply regardless of whether you are getting a divorce, or a de factor relationship is ending. At Preston Law, we will support you every step of the way to get the outcome that is in the best interest of your children.

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