Australian law focuses on the rights of children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Separating from your partner or spouse does not mean that you are separating from your child or children.
Although the terms ‘custody’, ‘residence’, ‘contact’ and ‘access’ are no longer used as much by lawyers, the issues behind the jargon are still on the top of the list of concerns for separating couples with children, namely:
- Who will the child or children live with?
- How will they spend time with the other parent?
- How will both parents be kept informed in relation to important decisions such as education and health?
Parenting arrangements and Responsibility for children
There can be any variety of different parenting arrangements put in place for children. Sometimes parents have an equal shared arrangement which means the children spend a similar amount of time with each parent. Other parents have an entirely different arrangement. If parents are unable to agree on arrangements for their children, the court can determine the arrangements that it considers to be in the best interests of the children.
But doesn’t the law now say that children have to spend equal time with each parent?
No, it doesn’t. The law is focused on the best interests of the children. That may or may not be served by the children spending equal time with their parents. When considering what is in the children’s best interest, the court must take into account the importance of there being a meaningful relationship between the children and both of their parents. In appropriate cases, the court must also consider the need to protect the children from harm.
Parental responsibility is another issue which must be determined. This term means the responsibility for making the long term. major decisions affecting the children’s lives such as religion, education and health. Most parents will continue to have equal shared parental responsibility for their children which means that they make joint decisions about these matters. However there are circumstances where that is not considered to be in the best interests of children. In those cases one of the parents will have sole responsibility for these decisions.
Parents are not the only ones who may find themselves having to deal with parenting arrangements for children. More and more, others such as grandparents, aunts and uncles are taking on the responsibility for children when there are difficulties with their parents.
Where do I start?
Firstly, see an Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer. Your lawyer will take you through all of the areas which need to be considered and document what you think is the best arrangement for your children. If your partner is agreeable, your lawyer can help you put in place a formal, binding arrangement, without proceeding to costly court proceedings.
If your differences are unable to be settled, then you will need to commence on the path to having parenting orders made by the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.
Why use a lawyer?
All families are different. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in family law. Each case must be considered, taking into account a range of factors specific to each family. An Accredited Family Law Specialist can provide case specific, detailed advice to you and answer your questions with the benefit of their wealth of experience. Taking advice from a specialist will provide you with clarity and peace of mind. You will receive careful and considered guidance as to the most appropriate way of pursuing the best outcome for your children.
Contact us to discuss your parenting matter.