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Considerations for Parenting Orders

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This guide provides an introduction to family law parenting orders in Australia. Parenting orders refer to the legal process of obtaining orders from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“the Court”) to determine arrangements for children, including living arrangements. These orders are separate from obtaining a divorce or a family law property settlement, although they are often done at the same time.

The Court has broad powers to make orders regarding living arrangements and care, including:

  • who the child or children are to live with,
  • the time that the child or children are to spend with another person,
  • parental responsibility,
  • communication a child or children are to have with other persons,
  • the process for resolving disputes, and
  • any other aspect of the care, welfare, or development of the child.

To be eligible to apply for parenting orders, the child, a parent, or a party to the proceedings must be present or ordinarily resident in Australia or an Australian citizen. The Court may decline to exercise jurisdiction if proceedings are pending in another country.

It is mandatory for parents to attend Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) and attempt to resolve any child-related disputes before initiating legal proceedings, unless an exception applies. Exceptions include serious allegations of violence or abuse, urgency, or allegations of serious risk to the child. Failure to attend FDR and obtain a certificate pursuant to s60I of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) may result in the Court refusing to allow the application to be filed. If an exception is obtained but later found to have little substance, this can be viewed negatively by the Court.

The best interests of the child are the paramount consideration when making parenting orders. The Court aims to facilitate the child having the benefit of a meaningful relationship with each of their parents while protecting them from physical or psychological harm. The application of the law will depend on the specific circumstances of each case.