Even though you are separating, both parents are the most important people in your child’s (or children’s) life. When there are no safety or risk issues, the best arrangements for the future are those where:
- your child continues to have a loving and meaningful relationship with both parents and other family members;
- both parents continue to share responsibility for the child; and
- your child lives in a safe environment, with no violence or abuse.
Parental separation can be a stressful time for a child. How they react to separation and divorce often depends on their age, temperament and the level of cooperation or conflict between their parents. They may experience a range of emotions which are difficult for them to deal with.
Children from separated families can develop and flourish just as well as children from families that are still together, especially if they are supported and encouraged to maintain a positive relationship with both parents and other significant people in their lives, like grandparents and other relatives.
A child needs the continuing care and support of both parents, where possible. They will worry less if you can agree about what is going to happen and explain why to them.
Fixed fee child parenting matters
At Jano Family Law, we are able to provide you with a fixed fee for your family law child parenting matter. Please see our Fees page for more details.
What do you need to consider when making parenting arrangements for your child?
Every family is different, so the arrangements that work for your family may be different from other families. Try to make arrangements that will work the best for your child.
When making arrangements for your child, you will need to consider:
- the age of the child which is very important in deciding what arrangements will work;
- establishing a regular routine so the child knows the routine and what to expect when, but also being flexible when required;
- giving plenty of notice if you wish to change the routine, for example, for special family occasions;
- whether it is reasonably practical for the child to spend equal time or substantial and significant time with each parent (substantial and significant time includes weekends, school holidays and days other than those);
- how their time will be spent with other significant persons in their lives, such as grandparents and other relatives;
- who will look after them after school and where will they spend holidays;
- any other things such as choice of school, health care, sport, or religious matters; and
- how to ensure the child continues to enjoy their culture.
If it is safe to do so, it is generally best if you can reach your own agreement with your former spouse or partner.
Making your own agreement is often best for your child, you and your former partner. It will save you both money, time and stress.
Documenting parenting arrangements
There are three main ways you can make arrangements for your child after separation:
- informal arrangements;
- parenting plans, and
- parenting orders, including by consent.
Only parenting orders are legally binding. It is highly recommended that you obtain parenting orders, even if you have a parenting plan already.
What sort of parenting arrangement you make may depend on how you and your former partner come to the agreement.
If you agree on arrangements, you can make a parenting plan or seek to formalise your agreement by applying for consent orders.
If you cannot agree on some issues, you can use dispute resolution or mediation to help you resolve any issue in dispute.
If you cannot reach an agreement, you can apply to the Court for parenting orders.
TIP: Divorce is a completely separate process to parenting proceedings.
The law relating to children and their best interests
Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 gives the Court power to make orders for the care and welfare about children in Australia (except Western Australia). Orders about children are commonly referred to parenting orders, even though they can apply to a person who is not a parent of the child the proceedings relate to.
When determining any dispute about children (including about with whom a child should live and/or spend time, who should make decisions about a child, and matters like where child should go to school or whether a child should have a medical procedure), the Court must regard the best interests of the child as its paramount consideration. The Family Law Act 1975, provides guidance as to how the Court determines a child’s best interests, but the Court has discretion to consider anything it thinks relevant in determining those best interests.
The ‘primary considerations’ for determining a child’s best interests, to which the Court is required to give the greatest weight, are the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, and the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence. In balancing those primary considerations, the Court must give greater consideration to protecting the child from harm (see section 60CC(2) and 60CC(2A) of the Family Law Act 1975).
Can the Court make orders about my child?
The Court generally has jurisdiction to make orders for the care and welfare of children in all states and territories.
If your child is in care under a child welfare law of a state or territory, the Court cannot make a parenting order about them, except with the consent of the relevant child welfare authority. This applies even if your child comes into care under a child welfare law after you already have proceedings in the Court about your child.
Other considerations in parenting matters
Each family is different and their needs are unique. If any of the following apply to your situation please contact us.
- If you are not a child’s parent but you are a person concerned with the care, welfare and development of a child, or you are a grandparent of a child.
- If you want to change your parenting orders or current arrangements.
- If you believe your application for a parenting order is urgent.
- If you have a current parenting order that you believe has been breached or not complied with and you need an enforcement order.
- If your child normally lives with you and hasn’t been returned to you, or is missing, you can apply for a recovery order to help you to find your child.
- If your child has been relocated without your agreement, has been taken overseas without your permission, or without the authorisation of a court or has not been returned (as agreed) from overseas.
- If you have applied to the Court for a parenting order in some circumstances, the Court may appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer to represent your child.