In considering parenting arrangements following separation, the Family Law Act requires the parties to act in the best interests of the children first and foremost.

The law and Courts do not consider the parent’s wishes to be the deciding factor on parenting arrangements, especially in circumstances where those arrangements are in contradiction with the child/children’s best interests.

Determining what is in the best interests of the children and child custody is often the most difficult issue to resolve following separation. Our experienced team of family lawyers work closely with our clients to get the best and most ideal parenting arrangement for them and their children.

Each child has a right to develop and maintain a meaningful relationship with each parent, in addition to maintaining contact and meaningful relationships with their extended family such as grandparents, aunties and uncles, cousins etc.

Where parents are unable to reach an agreement on where the children should live, the Court will make the decision by factoring two primary considerations:

  • 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 from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.

In certain circumstances, the Court may also want to consider the child’s opinion on parenting arrangements. This may be done by directly asking the child themselves, or involving an independent children’s lawyer, a lawyer appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the child. The independent children’s lawyer (ICL) is appointed to act as a third party to listen and represent the child’s wishes and perspectives, and promote an outcome that they have reasoned is best for the child’s welfare.

Where there are no issues of family violence, the starting point for parental arrangements is that the parents have equal shared parental responsibility of each child. This means that although the child may live primarily with one parent, long term decisions such as the child’s health, development and education are decisions which are to be agreed by both parents and/or each parent is to be consulted prior to a decision being made. Where there are issues of family violence, the Court will strongly focus on the primary considerations referred to above, and factor in the physical or psychological risks with any parenting arrangement.

Prior to any Application being made in the Courts, it is a statutory requirement that the parents attended a Family Dispute Resolution service to try and resolve the dispute. If this is unsuccessful a section 60I certificate is provided to the parties which allows an Application to then be made to the Court. Our family lawyers work in conjunction with family dispute resolution practitioners to assist in collaboratively resolving parenting disputes between separated couples.

If the parents are able to agree to a suitable parenting arrangement which is in the best interests of the children, consent orders or a parenting plan can be entered into and filed with the Court outlining the agreement.

Our team of experienced family lawyers have extensive experience in all matters of parenting arrangements, from pre-court negotiations and settlements exploring alternative dispute resolution opportunities to final hearing in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.

Contact Antunes Lawyers for advice and guidance in finalising parenting arrangements for your family after separation.

Talk to one of our expert lawyers today.