Family Law Library

Parenting Orders

An application for a Parenting Order can be made by the child’s parents, the child, a grandparent or any other person concerned with the child’s welfare.

The Court will only hear child related proceedings if an applicant has attended family dispute resolution (perhaps at a Family Relationships Centre) and obtained a certificate. A certificate is not required where:

  • the Application is for Consent Orders,
  • the matter is urgent or
  • child abuse or family violence is involved.

When dealing with an application for a Parenting Order, the court should have as its paramount consideration the child’s best interests.

A child’s views can be taken into account via a ‘family report’ prepared by a family consultant or an independent children’s lawyer. Sometimes a judge may interview a child, but this is unusual.

A Court can make Orders about:

  • parental responsibility;
  • which parent a child lives with;
  • wow much time a child spends with the other parent; and
  • how a child communicates with a parent.

When a magistrate makes an intervention order to protect a child, they must check if there are Parenting Orders in place. A magistrate can decide to suspend, vary (change) or discharge (cancel) a Parenting Order if certain conditions are met.

The relationship between intervention orders and parenting orders is complex. An intervention order does not stop the respondent applying for a parenting order to see the children. Get legal advice.

Can child care arrangements specified in a Court Order be varied?

There is a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps necessary to put the Parenting Orders into effect. The children should be positively encouraged to comply with the Orders.

What happens if Court Orders become unworkable?

If Court Orders are no longer workable, parents should try to resolve matters with the assistance of a lawyer and vary the Orders. If agreement can’t be reached, then application is made to the Court and the Court may order that both parents attend a parenting program or consider varying the Orders.

What happens if the Court Orders are breached?

The Court takes breaches of its Orders very seriously. Depending on the circumstances, the non-complying parent can be referred to a parenting program, fined, made to provide compensatory (or ‘catch up’ time) with the child and parent, or even face gaol.

Reasonable excuse

When a breach occurs, the non-complying parent may show a reasonable excuse. For example, a very sick child (supported by proper medical evidence) may be considered a legitimate reason for a parent breaching an Order.

Less serious contravention with no reasonable excuse

If there is no reasonable excuse for a less serious contravention the Court can:

  • make Orders for the person committing the contravention to take part in a post-separation parenting program,
  • make further Parenting Orders that compensate a person for the time the other person did not spend with the child as a result of the contravention,
  • order the person who committed the contravention to enter into a bond and
  • order the person contravening the order to pay costs.

More serious contravention with no reasonable excuse

For more serious contraventions where no reasonable excuse has been established the Court can make Orders for fines or imprisonment in relation to the parent committing the contravention.

Further information is available at: familylawcourts.gov.au