Family law parenting matters – how the court makes decisions about your children


April 18, 2013 by Todd

Separations are already difficult enough.  If you have children, you generally don’t get to see your kids as much as you did before separation.  A family law parenting dispute can often follow.

How will a court work out what happens to your child after separation?  And how will you, your ex-partner, your lawyer and a mediator help you work it out, even if you don’t go to Court?  They all follow this pathway.

Parental responsibility

In family law parenting matters, the first bridge to be crossed relates to ‘parental responsibility’.  Parental responsibility means decisions about important parts of your child’s future, including where they go to school, what medical treatment they receive, what religion they practice and things like that.  There is a presumption that both parents should have what is called ‘equal shared parental responsibility’.  That is, you and your child’s other parent make decisions jointly.  The presumption is not applied where it can be proved that there has been family violence or child abuse has occurred.  It also does not apply where the court decides that it is not in your child’s best interests.

Equal time

When a decision has been made about parental responsibility, a court then needs to look at whether your child should spend equal time with both of their parents.  There is no presumption of equal time.  A court needs to decide whether equal time would be in the best interests of your child, and whether it would be reasonably practicable in your situation.  That is, will it actually work in your situation?

Substantial and significant time

If the Court decides not to make an equal time order, it then needs to look at whether your child should live with one parent and spend substantial and significant time with the other parent.  This means that your child spends time with the other parent on weekdays, weekends, holidays, and special days for both your child and the other parent.  Again, when deciding this, a court needs to be satisfied that it is in the best interests of your child and reasonably practicable.

Other orders for time

If the Court decides to make neither of those orders, the Court can make whatever orders it thinks are in the best interests of your child.

You need not be a parent to apply

Family law parenting matters often involve parties other than parents.  They include anyone interested in the care, welfare or development of your child.  Examples include grandparents, aunts, uncles and even ex-partners of the parents of the child who are not biologically related to the child.  Where people other than the parents of your child ask the court to make orders, the Court can consider whether they should have parental responsibility, equal time, substantial and significant time or some other time with your child.

What to do now

Your situation is unique.  In a family law parenting matter, you need a lawyer with knowledge and experience on your side to get the best outcome.  Let our knowledge be your edge.  Contact us now.


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