Being able to openly communicate and reach an agreement with your partner will not only make life easier for both parents but it will also be a much better outcome for your child. When the time comes to jointly make decisions about their future, the relationship will be less strained than if you had settled the dispute in court.
With that said, there are certain situations where the parties cannot agree and litigation is simply unavoidable. In these circumstances, you can apply to the Family Court for Parenting Orders.
Such orders will often cover the following:
- Who the child will live with;
- Time that each parent will spend with the child;
- Allocated parental responsibilities;
- Consultation requirements;
- Dispute resolution processes
Provided the matter is not urgent, such as a domestic violence situation for example, both parties must attend Family Dispute Resolution. If the parties cannot agree, the matter will progress to the Family Court.
Best Interests of the Child
Before making a parenting order, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) requires the court to regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration. This rule applies to all parents irrespective of whether you were married, de facto or neither. In determining what a child’s best interests may be, the court will take the following primary considerations into account:
- Whether the child has a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
- Whether the child has protection from physical or psychological harm.
Additional considerations may include:
- The child’s view;
- The child’s relationship with both parents and other possible guardians;
- Whether both parents have actively played a role in the child’s life; or whether they have failed to do so;
- How a change of circumstances could affect the child;
- The emotional and intellectual needs of both parents;
- Both parent’s attitude to the child and their attitude to parenthood;
- Whether there has been any family violence;
- Other considerations such as the parent’s maturity, age, lifestyle and culture along with any factors the court thinks are relevant.
Who Can Apply?
The parents, the child, the grandparents or any other person who has concerns about the welfare of the child may apply for parenting orders. A court will decide whether they will spend equal time with each parent or a substantial amount of time with one parent. Of course, this will also depend on what is reasonably practicable. The distance between both parents, how they communicate with each other and how the decision will impact the child are all relevant factors.