Factors The Court Considers In Parenting Arrangements
Posted: 1st May 2019
Posted in: News
Posted by: Fiona Browne, Associate
One of the issues that a family may face during separation or divorce is what parenting arrangements should be made in respect of any children.
Over the years, the Family Law Act has been amended extensively. Terms used to describe parenting arrangements between separated parents have included custody, guardianship, access, residence, contact and parental responsibility. This has created confusion for separating parents as to the correct terminology, especially if they have to appear before a judge.
Most commonly, parents will use the word “custody” if they end up having to consult with a lawyer for family law advice. The family lawyer will then explain to the parent that the term “custody” has not been used in parenting orders for many years.
The term “custody” has now been replaced with other terminology – still referring though to what parenting arrangements are to be made for the child or children’s living arrangements.
The term “custody” has been replaced with the phrases “parental responsibility” and “lives with”. A parenting order may allocate parental responsibility to one parent. Parenting orders may also set out living arrangements for children.
What the Courts Consider in Parenting Arrangements
Parental responsibility means all the normal duties, powers and authority which by law that parents exercise in relation to children. For instance, what school will the children attend? Normally, parents share this responsibility equally. In some cases though, normally due to issues that the parents cannot resolve or agree upon, the Court may allocate parental responsibility to one parent. This means that one parent will be responsible for making major decisions in respect of the children.
Once the Court has determined the issue of parental responsibility, the Court must then consider the living arrangements for the children. Who will the children live with? Will the children spend equal time, significant time, or perhaps no time with one parent? It all comes back to what is in the best interests of the children.
For most separating parents though, the use of the correct terminology is not a concern as they will not go before the Family Court and use phrases such as “custody”, “parental responsibility” and “lives with”.
What if I can’t agree?
What happens if parents disagree with parenting matters?
If parents separate and can’t agree on living arrangements for the children the first step is to attend upon a family dispute resolution practitioner.
The Family Law Act encourages families to try to agree on living arrangements for children outside the Court.
In the event that parents cannot come to an agreement, the matter may need to be dealt with in Court. An application would need to be filed with either the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court seeking parenting orders.
Seek legal advice from experienced family lawyers if you have questions about child custody agreements.
Related Article: Parenting Disputes (Child Custody)