The Family Law Act sets out the principles for determining what parenting arrangements should be made for children. The paramount consideration is ‘what is in the child’s best interests’. A child’s best interests are met through these principles:
- Children have the right to be adequately and properly cared for and protected from harm
- Children have the right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents
- Parents should fulfil their responsibilities towards the care, welfare and development of their children
Other considerations that are taken into account in deciding what arrangements are in a child’s best interests include:
- Any views expressed by the child
- The nature of the relationship between the child and each parent
- The extent to which each parent has taken the opportunity to spend time and communicate with the child, and be involved in decision making for the child
- The extent to which each parent has fulfilled their obligations to maintain the child
- The likely effect of any changes to the child’s circumstances
- The practical difficulty and expense of the arrangement
- The maturity, gender, lifestyle, and background of the child and each parent
- The attitude to the child, and to the responsibilities of parenthood demonstrated by each parent
- Neglect or family violence
The law presumes that it is in a child’s best interest for both parents to share ‘parental responsibility’ equally, meaning that parents should both be involved in making long term decisions for their child, for example, what school they will attend, what religion they practice, and their health care.
The presumption of equal shared parental responsibility may be rebutted and parental responsibility may be exercised by one parent in circumstances where one parent has engaged in abuse of the child or another family member, or engaged in family violence.
Where parents share parental responsibility for their children, the Court must be consider whether an arrangement can be made for the child to spend equal time with each parent. If an equal time arrangement is not considered to be in the child’s best interests or it is not reasonably practicable, then the Court must consider whether an arrangement can be made for the child to live with one parent, and to spend substantial and significant time with the other parent (i.e. time during the week and on weekends and holidays).
If you have reached an agreement on parenting arrangements for your child, we can assist you to formalise that arrangement to ensure that it is binding and legally enforceable.
Where parents have been unable to reach an agreement as to their children’s arrangements, they must first attend family dispute resolution (FDR) if they want to take their issues to Court. In certain circumstances, FDR may not be appropriate and you can apply to the Court to proceed without an FDR certificate.
Where FDR has been unsuccessful, and further negotiations have failed to resolve the issues, parents can apply to the Court for parenting orders. We can represent you throughout the entire Court process, preparing all required Court documentation, advocating your case to the Court and working with you to obtain a resolution that is in the best interests of your children.
Our family lawyers have experience in a range of parenting matters, including:
- Providing advice and negotiating the future arrangements for your children
- Preparing formal legal documents to ensure that your children’s arrangements are legally binding and enforceable by a Court
- Providing advice, negotiating and preparing binding child support agreements
- Relocation of one parent and/or the children
- Issues surrounding international travel including applications to the Court for a child’s passport
- Applying to the Court for urgent recovery orders, for a child to be returned to the parent with whom they normally live
- Grandparents and other family members spending time with and parenting children
- Representing you through the entire Court process when applying for parenting orders
- Applying to the Court for enforcement orders when existing orders have not been complied with
- Applying to the Court to vary or set aside existing parenting orders