What Are Parenting Orders and Parental Responsibility?

What Are Parenting Orders?

What must first be recognised is that the term ‘parenting orders’ has replaced the term ‘child custody’ in the Family Law Act. This distinction is important to note as it reflects the courts attempt to focus on the interests of your child, rather than seeing them as something to be ‘won’.  The change supports legislative ideas that focus on your child’s rights and the responsibility of parents.

The Difference between Parenting Orders and Responsibilities

In a family matter, the court may provide specific orders to a parent or guardian. These orders bring particular responsibilities which are classified as parental responsibilities.  Parental responsibilities include the right to make decisions as to your child’s upbringing; education, religion and medical decisions, to name a few. 

Your Rights to Parenting Orders

When making a parenting order in relation to a child, the court is bound by specific presumptions and requirements. Firstly, the court must ensure that the orders are in the best interest of the child and the child’s parents. Without evidence to the contrary, it is presumed that equally shared parenting will fulfil this obligation. However, presumption does not apply in situations where the child has been exposed to abuse or family violence. 

Please note that the term ’equally shared parental responsibility’ does not mean that both parents will necessarily be allocated an equal amount of time to spend with their child. 

Whilst the court takes into account many factors when determining what the best interest of your child are, their primary considerations are the benefits of the child having a meaningful relationship with their parents and to protect them from physical or psychological harm. 

Seeking Parenting Orders’

When a couple are separating, they must first seek mediation through the Family Dispute Resolution Conference. Mediation is a more relaxed option that takes less time and money to attempt to resolve disputes. If the parties cannot reach an agreement at mediation, then an Application to the Family Court of Australia can be made seeking a determination in regards to areas of the child’s life and living arrangements. 

What to do next?

If you would like advice as to how to seek mediation or parenting orders please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our family lawyers.

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