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A Complete Guide to Parenting Orders in Australia

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Parenting orders, whether agreed upon or decided by the court, cover various aspects of the child’s overall care, welfare, and development.

These orders can be established through two main methods: by an application for consent orders or a court ruling.

  1. Consent Order Application: This method involves both parties agreeing on the terms of the parenting arrangements. They jointly apply to the court for these agreements to be formalised into consent orders. This process is typically faster and less adversarial.
  2. Court Decision: When parties cannot agree on parenting arrangements, they may present their case to a family law court. After considering the evidence, the court makes a decision and issues a parenting order. This process can be lengthier and more contentious.

Step By Step Guide to Applying for Parenting Orders

Applying for the court’s decision to make parenting orders in Australia involves a structured and detailed legal process. Here is a step-by-step guide to navigate this process:

  1. Family Dispute Resolution (FDR): Before applying to court, parties must attempt family dispute resolution, except in cases of urgency or family violence. FDR aims to help parties reach an agreement outside of court.
  2. Filing an Initiating Application: If FDR is unsuccessful or isn’t suitable, either party can file an application with the Federal Circuit and Family Court, including necessary forms and an affidavit detailing the parenting situation and why the proposed orders benefit the child.
  3. Response from the Other Party: The other party has the opportunity to file a response, outlining their position and any different orders they seek.
  4. Interim Orders: If immediate decisions are needed on certain issues while waiting for the final hearing, either party can apply for interim orders.
  5. Pre-trial Procedures: This may involve attending a case assessment conference, directions hearings, and a conciliation conference to try and resolve issues before the final hearing.
  6. Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution Conference: Before the final hearing, parties are often required to participate in a further dispute resolution conference to attempt to settle matters without a court decision.
  7. Final Hearing: If the matter is still unresolved, the case moves to a final hearing. Here, both parties present evidence and arguments, including witness testimonies and expert reports for the judge’s decision.
  8. Court Decision: After considering all evidence and submissions, the court will make a decision and issue final parenting orders. The paramount consideration is the best interests of the child or children involved.
  9. Compliance: Once parenting orders are made, both parties are legally bound to comply with the terms set out in the orders. Non-compliance can result in legal consequences, including fines, imprisonment, or changes to the custody arrangements.
  10. Modifications: If circumstances change significantly, you may apply to the court to vary the orders. However, this typically requires demonstrating that the change is in the child’s best interests.
  11. Throughout this process, it’s crucial to seek legal advice from an experienced child custody lawyer to understand your rights, responsibilities, and the implications of the parenting orders sought. A lawyer can guide you through the process, help draft necessary documents, and ensure your application aligns with legal standards.

Applying for Sole Parental Responsibility and Full Custody of a Child in Australia

Parenting orders can delineate between shared and sole parental responsibility, affecting decision-making powers over a child’s education, medical care, and overall life and development.

Central Consideration: The Child’s Best Interests

The paramount concern in these applications is the child’s best interests. This principle guides the court’s decision-making process, ensuring the child’s safety, welfare, and development are prioritised.

Justifying Sole Custody

To successfully argue for sole custody, you must provide compelling reasons to support your request. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Evidence of Abuse or Neglect: Indicating that the child’s current environment may be harmful.
  • Inability of the Other Parent to Provide a Safe Environment: Demonstrating the other parent’s failure to offer a nurturing and secure setting.

Your application must clearly articulate why sole custody aligns with your child’s best interests, focusing on their safety and overall development.

Demonstrating Your Role and Providing a Stable Environment

Active Involvement: Showcase your direct engagement in your child’s life. This involvement might be through participating in educational activities, contributing to medical decisions, or establishing a consistent home routine.

Stable and Nurturing Environment: Present evidence that you can offer a stable home. This includes ensuring safety, consistency in daily routines, and supporting the child’s educational and emotional needs.

What is an Emergency Parenting Order?

An emergency order addresses immediate risks or breaches of existing orders, facilitating a quick court response.

Reasons for pursuing an emergency order can include risk of harm, abduction concerns, or unauthorised relocations.

The process aims for rapid court response, possibly dispensing with mediation in time-sensitive situations. 

How long does a parenting order last?

A parenting order in Australia typically lasts until the child turns 18. However, the specifics can vary based on the court’s decision and the individual circumstances of the case.

The order outlines responsibilities regarding the child’s living arrangements, parental contact, and decision-making until it expires or is replaced by a new order.

Parenting Order Examples

Examples of parenting orders in Australia may include stipulations about:

  • Who will the child live with, and what time will the child spend with each parent?
  • The manner and frequency of communication between the child and a parent they don’t reside with.
  • Allocation of parental responsibilities and decision-making rights regarding the child’s welfare, education, and health.
  • Specific terms addressing the child’s routine, travel arrangements, and procedures for altering the order or resolving disputes.
  • Guidelines for the child’s education, such as which school they should attend.
  • Arrangements for medical and dental care, including how parents will make decisions about treatments.
  • Provisions for the child’s religious and cultural upbringing.
  • Requirements for the child’s extracurricular activities, including who will bear the costs and responsibilities for transportation and attendance.
  • Conditions under which the order can be reviewed or modified, especially in response to significant changes in the child’s or parents’ circumstances.

These samples demonstrate the breadth of considerations a parenting order may cover, focusing on structuring a supportive environment for the child’s development and upholding their best interests.

Secure Your Child’s Future with Justice Family Lawyers

Navigating a parenting order can be complex and emotionally taxing. At Justice Family Lawyers, we understand the stakes.

Our dedicated team is here to guide you through every step, ensuring your child’s well-being and your peace of mind.

Whether it’s establishing living arrangements, decision-making rights, or special provisions, we’re committed to achieving the best outcome for your family. Trust us to be your advocates in securing a brighter future for your child. Contact us today.

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