Children and Parenting Orders in Family Law
Many relationship breakdowns involve couples that have children and require parenting orders. Separations are always difficult but having children involved always heightens the emotional aspect of the breakup.
Furthermore then is then the question of “how will the children now spend time with each of the parent’s?”. The main consideration in all disputes that involve children is the concept of the orders being in the “child’s best interests”.
Best Interests of the child
When making decisions about children in the context of parenting orders, what matters most is focusing on what is in the best interests of the child. As long as a child is under 18 years of age, when a relationship between a childs’ parents ends, the parents continue to have joint parental responsibility for that child. However, sadly for some couples, deciding what is in the childs best interests becomes blurred.
Joint parental responsibility refers to all the duties, responsibilities and authority which parents have in relation to their children. This means that both parents have equal responsibility for making decisions about major long term issues in their children’s lives, such as decision about their child’s education, health, religion, name etc. When some relationships end it is vital to have parenting orders put in place for the parties which dictate how these responsibilites should be divided.
The Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”) provides for the presumption for joint parental responsibility. The presumption of joint parental responsibility must be applied unless it is not in the child’s best interest or there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent or person who lives with a parent has engaged in abuse of the children or family violence.
Equal responsibility for decision making does not mean equal time with the child. Where is it not in the best interest of the child or not practical to spend equal time with each parent, then the court will order the child live with one parent only. The court will consider including in the order that the child spend substantial and significant time with the other parent. This might mean weekends and holidays and can also include special occasions such as birthdays. Parents need to consider an arrangement that is not only best for their children but is reasonably practicable given the day to day life of the family, work commitments and the like. You may want to book a chat with one of our family lawyers to discuss the best way forward.
Disputes about children
Disputes over visitation rights and time with children can be resolved by agreement between the parents and formalised by filing documents with the Court (consent orders also referred to as parenting orders). The agreement may be reached as a result of a mediation between the parties or by a court after after a trial.
For more information about children and parenting disputes contact us or click here for initial consultation details.