How Can I Change My Parenting Orders?

Quite frequently as circumstances change, the parties may wish to make some changes to a Parenting Order. At other times, the parents may feel that the orders are simply not working as intended. The question is can the parenting order be changed. The short answer is yes.

There are 3 scenarios in which Court orders can be changed.

1) Appealing Court Orders

You can appeal the decision of the Court within 28 days of the date of the original decision.

2) Changing Parenting Orders By Consent of Both Parties

If both parties agree to change the orders, the options are:

  • filing consent orders to change the final orders, or

  • making a parenting plan if the orders were parenting orders.

Your new consent orders or parenting plan can then replace the court orders. It is important that you seek legal advice if you are wanting to change your parenting orders. At Jano + Co Family Law we can draft and file new parenting consent orders for a fixed fee of $990, or we can draft a parenting plan for you, however we recommend that parenting orders be used in preference over a parenting plan.

3) Changing Parenting Orders When There is Significant Change in Circumstances

If you cannot reach an agreement and you are out of time to file an appeal, you follow the same process as if you were applying to the court for the first time. If you have been to a family dispute resolution service within the previous 12 months, you need not do so again unless you feel it may assist you to resolve the matter.

You will need to file an Initiating Application in the right Court, which could be either the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, it is important that you file in the correct forum.

The Court will not simply agree to changing final parenting orders, there need to be appropriate grounds, basically there needs to have been a significant change in circumstances since the orders were made. What does this mean?

The question of whether or not the Court will amend existing Orders was considered in the Full Court of the Family Court decision of Rice v Asplund (1979) FLC 90-725 where the Court was asked to amend existing final Orders.

In that case, the Full Court of the Family Court established a threshold test whereby it was determined that a parent is at liberty to apply to the Court to amend existing final Orders, however to do so they must first satisfy the Court that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original Orders were made which would give cause for any amendment to existing Orders. The Court will consider all the circumstances and what the best interests of the child/ren are will likely be the most important consideration.

The Court stated that departing from a final order is not to be done lightly because:

  1. Varying or “reopening” final orders has the potential to lead to “endless litigation”; and

  2. Ongoing Court proceedings can and are likely to have a detrimental impact on the child or children at the centre of the proceedings.

Over time the Family Court has provided further guidance on the issue of what would, and would not be considered a material change in circumstance capable of satisfying a Court to consider amending existing Orders.

It is important that you seek legal advice if you are wanting to change your parenting orders. At Jano + Co Family Law we can consider your circumstances, provide you with advice, and then if appropriate, draft and file an initiating application and appear in Court for your first mention, all for a fixed fee on the Court approved scale. Contact us for more information.

Changing parenting orders is not something you should attempt to do yourself. Seek legal advice.