When trying to work out what arrangements should be put in place for your child following separation, thought should be given to where the child will primarily live and when, where and how that child will spend time with the other parent during the week, on weekends, during school holidays and on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Consideration should also be given to whether both parents are able to consult with one another to make decisions jointly in relation to the child’s welfare. The legal term for being able to do that is equal shared parental responsibility.

Unless the matter is urgent or if there are issues of child abuse or family violence, you must try to mediate with an accredited FDR practitioner before applying to the Family Court for parenting orders. If an agreement can be reached an Application for Consent Orders can be filed with the Family Court so you can administratively obtain Court Orders, or a parenting plan can be signed. Parenting Plans are not legally enforceable or binding like Court Orders, but can be used as a platform for Court Orders if the agreement breaks down.

If the Family Court is asked to determine a child’s living arrangements, the Court’s focus will be on what is in the child’s best interests. The Court will also give thought to the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents and the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm and from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence. The Family Law Act identifies specific things that the Court must also take into account, including but not limited to the child’s wishes, level of maturity, the nature of the relationship between the child and parents and the parent’s capacity to provide for the needs of the child.

There is no right or wrong approach to working out your child’s living arrangements after you and your partner have separated. If you have any queries in relation to your family law parenting issues, please contact our Family Law team at wmd@wmdlaw.com.au or on 9525 8688.