Once you have separated from your spouse or partner, it is important to make suitable living arrangements for the children and ensure that both parents have contact with them. The Family Courts encourage parties to reach amicable agreement wherever possible and this is an even more important aim where children are concerned.  Children need certainty and stability.  They are more likely to be able to adapt to a new situation if arrangements can be out into place as soon as possible and without animosity.

If you and your partner can reach agreement about the parenting of your children, where they should live and what contact they should have with the other parent, then you may wish to formalise that agreement by applying for a consent order from the Family Court. This may include Financial Orders and Parenting Orders.

If parents cannot agree about the parenting of their children, then an application can be made to the Family Court for its assistance in resolving disputes.  Through the Court process, the Family Court will encourage parents to reach their own agreement about the children but ultimately, if parents are unable to agree, the Family Court can make parenting orders about a child.

Aims of the Law

The aim of the Family Law Act as it apples to children is to ensure that children receive proper and adequate parenting to help them achieve their full potential and to ensure that parents fulfill their duties and meet their responsibilities with regard to the welfare, care and development of their children.

The following principles are to be followed unless it would be contrary to the best interests of the child:

  1. Children have the right to know and be cared for by both their parents regardless of whether their parents are married, separated, have never married or have never lived together;
  2. Children have a right of contact on a regular basis with both their parents and with other people significant to their care, welfare and development;
  3. Parents share duties and responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their children; and
  4. Parents should agree about the future parenting of their children.  Parents are encouraged to agree on matters concerning their children rather than seeking an order of the Court.

Parental responsibility

Each parent of a child who is not yet 18 has all the duties, powers, responsibility and authority which by law parents have for their children. Parental responsibility is not affected by changes in your relationship for example if you separate or remarry.

Who can apply?

A parenting order may be applied for by:

  • either or both of the child’s parents; or
  • the child (although this is fairly unusual); or
  • any other person concerned with the care, welfare or development of the child (eg a grandparent).

The child must be present in Australia when the application is filed, (or be an Australian citizen or resident), or a parent of the child is an Australian citizen or resident or present in Australia.  An order cannot be made in relation to a child who is 18 years old or over, is or has been married, or is in a de facto relationship.  Parenting orders cease when a child turns 18, marries or enters into a de facto relationship.

For more information on Consent Orders in Australia call AussieLegal on 1300 728 200.