Child Custody Cairns

family lawyers

Child Custody and Family Law Support

Navigating through child custody and parenting agreements after a divorce or de-facto separation can be extremely stressful, even without the legal proceedings.

If you have separated or about to do so, it’s important to get legal advice as early as possible so you can plan 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) but the period of adjustment is generally smoother for everyone involved if it’s finalised as soon as possible.

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 formal child custody agreement either through mediation, or via the Cairns Family Law Courts.

Our expert child custody lawyers understand the stress and disruption separation has on all parties, particularly the children. Our aim is to help you reach an agreement as quickly as possible that puts yours and your children’s best interests first. If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, we will help you finalise the matter through the Family Law Courts.

Some parents might be concerned that they will lose custody. This is rarely the case and only occurs as a result of poor behaviour of a parent. The important thing is not to assume the worse. Our team of lawyers are here to give you expert advice and an honest opinion based on decades of experience.

Our family lawyers in Cairns provide their services to help you reach a positive outcome which is in the best interests of your children, with as little stress as possible.

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

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. We understand that this is a difficult time which is why we handle each situation with the kindness and understanding our clients deserve.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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


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 however, 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, as well as the law surrounding the child custody issues to be discussed. You’ll also receive an explanation about parenting plans and consent orders so you get the most out of your mediation.


Even if you are unable to resolve everything 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 divorce or de-facto separation 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. Instead, the 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, so we handle each case with care.

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 for parenting agreements to be 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. Parent plans can, however, be easily changed or updated and used as evidence in court proceedings. Consent orders, in contrast, are legally binding and enforceable, however, are difficult to change without the agreement of the other parent.


The best way to formalise your child custody arrangements will depend on the agreement you and the other parent have reached, as well as your family circumstances. We recommend obtaining advice from a family lawyer prior to formalising your agreement.

If you have a court order, you can apply to vary it. If you do not have a court order, you may wish to look at obtaining 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 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 there is a child custody dispute, court proceedings are commenced. This does not mean that the family law court will ultimately determine the arrangements for your children. There will be further opportunities 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 an agreement that’s in the best interests of their children.

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

If you are looking to move town or state, consent to relocate with children is required from the other parent. If there is no agreement between you and the other parent, mediation is the next step. If mediation is not successful in reaching an agreement, you will need to file court proceedings.  A Court will only deal with a relocation issue (except in urgent circumstances) on a final basis, which means you could be waiting up to 12 months for a determination. 


Cairns Divorce Lawyers is a practice group of Cairns-based firm, Preston Law.


Our lawyers can help with any family law issue and guide you through the process to resolve any legal issues that may arise throughout your relationship. Contact us for a confidential, obligation free, initial consultation with one of our expert family lawyers.

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