Child Custody (Parenting Arrangements)
What is the main objective of family law in relation to children?
Any issues relating to child custody or parenting arrangements fall under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Rather than talk about ‘child custody’, the legislation presumes that each parent has ‘equal shared parental responsibility for the child’ and focuses on the issue of ‘parental responsibility’.
The principal objective of the legislation is to ensure that the child’s best interests are met, by:
- being protected from physical or psychological harm (the highest priority)
- having both parents involved in their lives in a meaningful way.
What are the different types of parenting agreements?
The law encourages parents and other people interested in a child’s welfare to agree on the parenting arrangements for the child. These include:
- a verbal agreement between you, with nothing in writing
- a written agreement, known as a parenting plan, which is not enforceable by law
- a consent order (which is an agreement in writing, signed, witnessed and filed with the court and enforceable by law).
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a written, signed and dated agreement that sets out the care arrangement for the child.
A parenting plan is not legally enforceable but a court will consider your most recent parenting plan if you apply for orders later.
You do not have to go to court to formalise a parenting plan. However, you can have a court turn your parenting plan into a consent order if you wish which becomes enforceable.
What happens if you can’t reach an agreement with your spouse about parenting?
If you can’t reach an agreement, you’ll need to apply to the court for a parenting order.
What is a parenting order?
A parenting order is a set of orders made by a court about parenting arrangements for a child. When a parenting order is made, each person affected by the order must follow it.
A parenting order outlines the responsibilities of parents and other carers. It may cover:
- where the children live
- who the children spend time and communicate with
- any other issues, such as schooling or medical treatment.
The court can make parenting orders by consent or after a trial or hearing (a court order).
If the situation is urgent, you can apply for urgent interim parenting orders.
How do Monardo Solicitors approach child custody (parenting arrangements)?
At Monardo Solicitors, we understand that issues relating to child custody and parenting arrangements can be particularly difficult, and a source of a great deal of anxiety and tension when a relationship breaks down.
As a result, we will focus on providing you with not only the best possible advice but the help you need to reach the best possible agreement with your spouse or partner on this issue. Most importantly, we will work with you to ensure that any agreement takes into account the best interests of your children.
Finally, if the matter goes to court, you will know you are being represented by lawyers with a great deal of experience in these kinds of cases.
How does our child custody form work?
If your child custody issue is relatively straight forward, you may wish to use our child custody form. Using the form will help minimise the costs of reaching a formal agreement regarding child custody issues with your spouse.
Step One: You fill in our online child custody form.
You simply fill in the online child custody form providing us with the background information about your case and send it to us via the reply button at the bottom of the page.
Step Two: We get in touch with you quickly, to discuss your case.
Can we help you if you don’t like filling in online forms or the situation regarding your child custody issue is a little more complicated than is usually the case?
Of course we can assist. If you don’t like filling in online forms or your child custody issues are complicated, just give us a call on 02 8006 5244, to make an appointment to discuss you child custody issues. Our experienced family law team will be happy to assist.
Child Custody (Parenting Arrangements) FAQs
Who can apply for a parenting order?
You can apply for a parenting order if you’re the child’s parent, grandparent, or any other person concerned with their welfare.
Both parents must be part of the agreement or order.
If each person involved in the parenting orders does not agree to the application, the court may ask for a report from a family consultant or social worker on how the order would work in practice. This helps the court decide which orders are in the child’s best interests.
What does the court consider when making parenting orders?
In deciding parenting applications, the court has a paramount duty to consider what is in the child’s best interests.
When considering this, the court must take into account two levels of considerations – primary and additional.
Primary considerations include:
- the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents
- the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm resulting from being subjected or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
Additional considerations include:
- the views the child has expressed (taking into account their maturity and level of understanding)
- the nature of the relationship of the child with each parent and with other persons (including grandparents)
- the extent to which each of the parents has taken, or failed to take, the opportunity to participate in decisions about major long-term issues in relation to the child, to spend time with the child and communicate with the child
- the extent to which each of the child’s parents has fulfilled the obligation to maintain the child
- the effect of any changes in the child’s circumstances (including the effect of separation from either parent, other children or other persons (including grandparents)
- the practical difficulty and expense of a child spending time with and communicating with a parent, and whether that difficulty and expense will substantially affect the child’s right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis
- the capacity of each of the child’s parents and other persons (including grandparents) to provide for the child’s needs
- the maturity, sex, lifestyle and background of the children and their parents
- if the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the right to enjoy their culture with others who share that culture
- the attitude of the parents to the child and the responsibilities of parenthood
- whether there have been any incidents of family violence
- whether there have been any family violence orders
- whether the order is likely to resolve issues, rather than lead to further litigation
- any other factors that the court deems relevant.
What is ‘equal shared parental responsibility’?
When the court makes an order that states there shall be ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ for the child, it means that the parents should jointly make decisions about major long-term issues. These include:
- the child’s education
- the child’s religious and cultural upbringing
- the child’s health
- the child’s name
- changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for them to spend time with a parent.
What affect does parental conflict have on children?
Research indicates that in families where there is a high level of conflict and animosity between parents, children are at a greater risk of developing emotional, social and behavioural problems, as well as difficulties with concentration and educational achievement.
Frequent and intense conflict between parents has a negative impact on a child’s sense of security, which affects their relationships with their parents and with others.
Parental conflict that focuses on children has also been linked to adjustment problems, particularly when children blame themselves for their parents’ problems.
The kind of ‘good quality parenting’ that reduces the impact of conflict includes providing the following:
- emotional support
- positive reinforcement.
The types of parental behaviours that have been identified as problematic for a child include:
- asking children to carry hostile messages to the other parent
- asking intrusive questions about the other parent
- creating a need in the child to hide information
- creating a need for children to hide positive feelings for the other parent
- putting down the other parent in the child’s presence.
If you believe that your child is being adversely affected by your separation or divorce, there are a number of organisations that offer support and advice.