In Australia, parents who split have to make decisions relating to the welfare of their children, and this is often done with the support of family lawyers. This might include creating a parenting plan which is a mutual arrangement that parents agree upon to determine how they can best care for and nurture their children, even though they are no longer married, or living together

You can provide any detail that you’d like in your parenting plan, however, if you are unsure what you should be adding, you should consult a family lawyer. A family lawyer will help you better understand your legal rights and duties and clarify how the law is applicable in your matter.

Typically, the parental plans always have at least a few of the following details:

  • Which parent the child is going to live with
  • A schedule indicating days and times for visitation for the absent parent
  • How and when the parents will communicate with the child
  • How parents divide parenting responsibilities and make choices about the child
  • Financial structures for children
  • Who the child can stay in contact with while the child is with each parent

A parental order may also include guidelines and rules that prevent a parent from taking a particular course of action or behaving in certain ways. This might be a rule stating that ridiculing or insulting the other parent while speaking to the child is not acceptable. Another example might be that a parent must not visit the other parent’s residence without a request or invite.

The Family Law Act offers guidelines on the areas that the parenting order can address. Live with orders which state who the child primarily lives with. Orders can relate to how much time the child can spend with each parent. It can also include others such as the child’s grandparents.

Communication orders clarify how the child will interact with each parent, and finally, parental responsibility orders, as the name suggests, state their obligations relating to decision making in respect of their parental responsibilities towards the child or children.

Applications for parental orders are generally applicable when:

  • Parents cannot settle on plans for parenting, such as where the children will live, or who will spend special events or holidays with them.
  • The condition of the parent or children is shifting, and this changes current parental orders.
  • When the children are at risk or there is an emergency
  • When there’s a case of family violence/abuse

The Court will give parental orders after it is apparent that the parents cannot agree, however, the court will expect the couple and their respective family lawyers to have made a sincere attempt to find an understanding and settlement of the dispute.

If the parents cannot agree on the conditions, the Court determines what is best for the child. When the Court issues parental orders, these are the most significant factors:

  • The emphasis is on the rights of child and obligations that each parent has to make for their children.
  • The goal is for children to embrace a friendly relationship and to be shielded from abuse.
  • The children’s overall interests come first.

The law also acknowledges that individuals other than parents, including grandparents and relatives, may serve a significant role in children’s lives. To this end, individuals other than parents can request an order or be involved in the order.