Children and Parenting (Child Custody, Access and Contact)

"When you have children, if you separate one of your first priorities is to work out living arrangements for your children. Those arrangements need to be in your children's best interest."

Our family lawyers can help you reach an agreement with your partner about parenting issues. If appropriate, we can refer you to counselling services to help with this process.

There is no standard custody arrangement. Often a child lives mainly with one parent and spends time with the other parent. Sometimes a child spends equal time with each parent. Different arrangements work for different families.

If you and your partner reach an agreement, we can formalise the arrangements by obtaining Family Court Orders without you needing to go to Court. Court Orders are not necessary for everyone. We can talk to you about whether they will be helpful for you. We can also advise you about parenting plans and other more informal agreements about parenting issues.

Grandparents, or others who are significant in children's lives, may want to make sure they continue to see the children even after a separation. Our family lawyers have experience acting for family members in a range of situations, including where parents are themselves unable to care for children.

If you and your partner can't reach an agreement about children's matters, or if there are urgent issues that need to be addressed, Family Court proceedings may be necessary. We can represent you in Court and guide you through what can otherwise be a confusing process. With our experience and expertise you can be sure that your case will be presented to the Court in a way that achieves your desired outcome for your children.

Our family lawyers can also advise you about obligations to provide financial support for your children.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, parents can agree on any living arrangements they want for their children. If parents cannot agree on arrangements for children, they can ask the Family Court to decide. The Court will consider what is in the best interests of the children. The Court may decide that it is in the best interests of the children to spend equal time with each parent, but this is not necessarily the case.

The term "custody" is no longer used by the Family Court. When people talk about "custody" they are usually referring to who children will live with and who will make decisions about children.

If parents cannot agree on these issues, they can ask the Court to decide. The Court must give paramount consideration to the children's best interests when making a decision. The Court must consider a range of factors when deciding what is in a child's best interest.

The Court will make orders about who children "live with" and "spend time with" and who will have "parental responsibility" for children. Parental responsibility relates to decision making about children.

The Court can make a variety of different orders about parental responsibility for children.

Parental responsibility refers to decision making authority about long term issues concerning children, such as the children's health, education and religion.

The Court can order that both parents have joint decision making responsibility for the children. This requires parents to consult with each other and try to reach an agreed decision.

Alternatively, the Court can order that one parent have sole decision making responsibility for some of the long term issues affecting the children, or for all of the long term issues.

When making orders about parental responsibility, the Court will consider what is most appropriate for the children in that particular family, taking into account the children's best interests.

If there are no court orders in place, each parent has parental responsibility. In that case, the Family Law Act encourages parents to consult with each other about decisions and make decisions in the children's best interest.

When separated parents do not agree on arrangements for a child, and the court is asked to decide those arrangements, there are a number of factors that the court must consider.

Those factors include any views expressed by the child. So, the child's views are definitely relevant to a decision about whether a child should see the other parent.

But the child's views alone will not determine the arrangements.

The court also has to consider other factors, including the benefit to the child of having a relationship with the other parent, and a relationship with other significant people in the child's life, such as grandparents and extended family.

The court will weigh up those factors, and other required factors, such as the safety of the child and the child's carers, in making a decision about whether the child should see the other parent.

Our experienced family lawyers can advise you what would be reasonable and appropriate in your situation and what options you have. Our family lawyers can also help you make or defend an application to the Court about parenting arrangements, ensuring that all relevant factors are properly put before the court and considered by the court.

The Family Law Act focuses on what is best for children, not parents.

The object of the parenting provisions in the Family Law Act are:

  • To ensure that the best interests of children are met, including by ensuring their safety
  • To give effect to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As a parent, unless the Court orders otherwise, you do have parental responsibility for your children. Parental responsibility is defined as all the duties powers, responsibilities and authorities which, by law, parents have in relation to children. The Family Law Act states that parents are encouraged to exercise that parental responsibility together, by consulting with each other about major long-term issues in relation to their children, and by having regard to the best interests of their children as the paramount consideration when making decisions.

In practice, as a separated parent, unless there are safety concerns concerning children or your partner, you can reasonably expect to:

  • Have ongoing involvement in your children's lives
  • See your children regularly
  • Be involved in decision making about your children.

After separation, most grandparents see their children with the agreement of the children's parents. If that is not possible, grandparents can apply to the Family Court for an order for their grandchildren to spend time with them. The Family Court recognises that grandparents and other family members are significant to the care, welfare and development of children.

If you are having difficulty seeing your grandchildren, contact our family lawyers for advice. In most cases our family lawyers are able to help you negotiate arrangements which are workable for everyone.

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Thank you again for your support, the past year has been an extremely difficult and emotional journey, but thank to everyone at Blackwood the kids and I are now looking at a bright healthy happy future.

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