With more than thirty years of expertise behind us, Carew Counsel is a highly experienced family law firm dedicated to assisting our clients in all areas of family law, including children’s issues such as the living arrangements for children, and the time they spend with each parent, and other important people in their lives.
We hold the view that it is the child’s right to have quality time with both parents unless there’s a very good reason not to.
Parenting law in Australia
Terms like ‘guardianship’, ‘access’, ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ are now largely obsolete and replaced with concepts like:
- ‘Lives With’ Orders – Where and with whom the child resides
- ‘Spends Time With’ and ‘Communicates With’ Orders – Arrangements between the child and separated parents involving the parent whom the child does not normally live with, spend time and communicate with.
- ‘Special Issues’ – Relating to issues of education, religion, change of a child’s name, medical treatment and anything else to do with a child’s upbringing and welfare.
In the absence of a Court Order, each party holds shared parental responsibility for the child, meaning that long term decisions relating to education, religious and cultural upbringing, health and even choice of name should not be made without consulting the other parent first.
Living arrangements for children
The Family Law Act encourages parents to resolve their child custody arrangements without Court proceedings and many parties opt to do this by entering into a parenting plan.
If the matter goes to Court, then the Court will make decisions based on what’s best for the child, favouring both parents to be involved unless there is evidence that this is not in the best intere.
A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out the parenting arrangements for children. It can include:
- Arrangements for who the child is to live with, spend time with and communicate with;
- Who has parental responsibility for the child;
- Maintenance of a child;
- Dispute resolution in the event disputes arise;
- Any other aspect of care, welfare or development of the child.
This only needs to be written and signed freely (without threat, duress or coercion) between the parties to come into effect. An advantage of parenting plans is that they provide parents with more flexibility and the ability to easily change arrangements with minimal expense. This can be particularly useful when the children are young, and the needs of the children will change over a short period of time.
Parenting plans are not enforceable by the court if they are breached, but the Court will take into consideration the terms of a parenting plan if court proceedings are commenced after the parties enter into a parenting plan.
There is also the option for the parties to formalise their agreement by making an Application for Consent Orders. Subject to approval by the Court, the agreement made between the parties will then be made an Order, with either party able to utilise the Court for enforcement if needed.
Consent Orders are legally enforceable Court Orders that are made with the best interests of the child in mind.
In some cases, Consent Orders are necessary as they provide structure and certainty for parents and children.
In other cases, Consent Orders can get in the way of common-sense discussions and variations to the normal living arrangements of children, which is why in some cases, parenting plans may be preferable over consent orders.
Ideally, parents – the ones who have to live with these arrangements – should be making these decisions, not the Court.
This area of family law can be a complex matter, and the Court also considers the rights of others (apart from parents) to be involved in the child’s life, which includes grandparents, other relatives and foster parents.
If parents cannot reach agreement on parenting arrangements between themselves, the next step is Family Dispute Resolution, which is mediation to try and assist the parents reach agreement.
Where to from here?
Contact us to discuss how we can assist you with your family law matter.
Book an Initial Consultation – We sit down with you for 90 minutes to gain a thorough understanding of your needs and your matter.
Attend a Free Family Law Seminar – Held in the Melbourne CBD, this is your chance to build your legal knowledge, get an understanding of the court process and ask questions to our lawyers before making any decisions.
Get Started Online – Ready to make a start? Answer a few questions and get a free personalised information pack tailored to your family law issue. We can also assemble your relationship history, which will help us reduce costs if you book in for an appointment.
Why choose Carew Counsel Solicitors?
Our team of child custody lawyers can guide you with sensitivity and compassion through an emotional and challenging time.
We have decades of experience in children’s issues such as the living arrangements for children, and the time they spend with each parent, and other important people in their lives.
We empower you, by helping you understand the system, the options and the advantages and disadvantages of different options.
We have experience working with a range of experts in family law, meaning that when you need outside assistance, such as valuations or accountancy advice, we can engage professionals who best suit your individual circumstances.