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If parents have reached an agreement in relation to parenting matters concerning their children and want to formalise the agreement to make it legally binding, they can make an Application to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for Consent Orders.
Alternatively, if parents cannot agree on the arrangements for a child, then either parent may apply to the Court for a decision about what is in the child’s best interests. When the court makes an Order about a child, they are called parenting orders.
A parenting order may deal with one or more of the following:
- who a child will lives with.
- how much time the child spends with the other parent, and with other people, such as grandparents.
- the allocation of parental responsibility including whether one parent should be allocated sole parental responsibility for the child, or whether both parents are allocated equal shared parental responsibility for the child’s major long-term issues.
- how the child will communicate with the parent they do not live with (i.e., by telephone, Facetime, Skype etc).
- any other aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child including specific issues such as where changeover of the child will occur.
When a parenting order is made, each parent is legally obligated to comply with the Orders. Each parent must do everything a parenting order says. This means a parent cannot be merely passive but must take positive action including taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the order is put into effect. A parent must also positively encourage their child to comply with the Orders. For example, where the order states that a child is to spend time with the other parent, you must not only ensure that the child is available but must also positively encourage them to do so. A parenting order remains in force until a new parenting order or parenting plan changes it in some way. Even if the needs or circumstances of you, the child or the other parent change, the court order applies until it is formally changed by a court or, in some situations, parents can enter a parenting plan to change the arrangements, however this will not discharge the court Order. Before commencing parenting proceedings, each parent must comply with pre-action procedures. One of the most important pre-action procedures is the requirement for the parents to participate in Family Dispute Resolution (Mediation) to make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute.
For further information about how to apply for a Parenting Order or the penalties that may apply if a parent has failed to comply with a Parenting Order, please contact Cornerstone Law Offices.