The Australian Attorney Generals Department has produced a comprehensive Guide to Parenting Orders that you can download here Parenting-orders-what-you-need-to-know
- Chapter 1: Making arrangements for children after separation
- Chapter 2: Advice on writing parenting orders
- Chapter 3: Examples of parenting orders
- Appendix 1 The legal background
- Appendix 2 Obtaining Consent Orders
- Glossary of Legal Terms
The document was published in 2016 and there have not been major amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 since then so it is current at the time of publishing this post.
Making arrangements for children after separation
Chapter one talks about parental responsibility and some of the legal aspects of sharing care of children.
How Interact Support can Help.
Interact Support has a number of services available to help parents to make arrangements for children after you separate. They include:
- Family Dispute Resolution – Family Dispute Resolution or FDR is family law mediation facilitated by an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Interact Support is not a government funded service however we offer reasonable fees, don’t have long waiting lists and provide an efficient and professional service (usually via phone or web meeting)
- High Conflict Family Dispute Resolution – High Conflict FDR is a service for families where there has been a history of conflict escalating into family violence. Most of our clients for this service have some form of Family Violence Order and some may have been issued a Section 60i Certificate allowing them to go to court. They don’t want to go to court because of the cost and the fact that it will only further increase the anger and animosity between them. In High Conflict FDR all negotiations occur by phone or web meeting. You can meet and speak directly (on the phone or web camera) or we can use a shuttle process where the mediator speaks with each of you in turn and you don’t actually see or hear you. If you prefer that then Mediator Facilitated Negotiation might be a better alternative.
- Mediator Facilitated Negotiation – Mediator Facilitated Negotiation is a form of Family Dispute Resolution that is used if High Conflict FDR is not appropriate because one of you is fearful of seeing or hearing the other or there are practical difficulties associated with you both being available at the same time for FDR. In this service a team of two FDR Practitioners work with you both to negotiate an agreement for Parenting (or property).
There are various options in terms of making your agreement legally enforceable explained in the guide from page 7 to 12 explain a bit about Parenting Plans and Parenting Orders. Remember if you can reach an agreement you don’t have to go to court. You can apply for Consent Orders which will cost a fraction of the cost of going to court.
We generally recommend that the more conflict you are experiencing the more enforceable and clearly spelled out your agreement needs to be.
If you are confused about your options book in for a Separation and Divorce Consultation with Interact Support.
Advice on Writing Parenting Orders
Chapter Two of the Guide provides you with some advice on writing parenting orders. While you can draft and submit your Consent Orders yourself using the Do-it-yourself-kit supplied by the Family Court often people find the drafting of orders to be difficult.
If you get it wrong the court registrar will return your application and ask you to amend it (without providing you with a lot of guidance)
Interact Support has a service to help with Consent Order applications where you work with one of our FDR practitioners to clarify what you want in the orders. Generally agreements reached in mediation do not have the level of detail that you need for a Parenting Order application.
Once the draft of the order is finalised the FDR practitioner will work with a family lawyer to make sure that the wording will be accepted by the court.
Examples of Parenting Orders
Chapter three provides some examples of the types of orders other people have made. While it is helpful for the writers of the guide to provide such a wide range of options we understand that it is probably really confusing for you.
Does shared parental responsibility (the default position) work for your family or are there reasons that one of you should surrender some or all of your parental responsibility for the child? If that is being requested we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice.
We have arranged with a number of Family Lawyers a Legal Advice and Strategy Session that you can book in for to ask your legal questions about parenting orders.
The Legal Background
The first appendix talks about the law relating to children in Australia. On Pages 41-42 they have an excellent explanation of the role of Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners.
Family dispute resolution practitioners are mediators. Like family counsellors, they operate in a confidential setting. Some are private practitioners and some are employed by community-based organisations (or both). Some are legally qualified. They provide expert assistance in helping the parties work out an agreed outcome with focus on the best interests of the child. Family dispute resolution practitioners are employed in a range of organisations including Family Relationships Centres, legal aid commissions and in private practice.
The guide goes on to explain the Family Law definition of Parental Responsibility (Page 42) and the new language we use when talking about parenting.
In 1996 words like Custody and Access were dropped and guardianship was changed to parental responsibility. You should find that the family law professionals you work with will use these words instead of the old language which talked about children as if they were possessions.
There is also a bit of information about enforcement of Parenting Orders (from page 48) and International Child Abduction (from page 50) but these issues are really ones that you need to seek legal advice about. Contact us for a referral to a Legal Advice and Strategy Session if you are having difficulties with orders that are being ignored or you are fearful that your child will be abducted.
Obtaining Consent Orders
Appendix Two from page 53 talks about Consent Orders and Orders by Consent giving a bit of an understanding about the differences in reaching agreement without going to court or in reaching an agreement after you have already started the court process.
One of the issues we often encounter is when people have commenced court and reach an agreed compromise while in court. There is often pressure to quickly write up the orders and present them to the court. The alternative is to ask for an adjournement to allow you time to review the proposal calmly.
Sometimes when a case has settled on the date of the
hearing, or even at some stage after the hearing has
commenced, there is a sense of urgency about drawing up
the consent orders that embody the agreement the parties
have reached. In these situations, there is an obvious
advantage in having the orders finalised there and then, while
the parties and their lawyers are in court and focused on
the issues. On the other hand, mistakes can be made when
orders are drafted hastily. Parties should keep in mind that
it might be possible to ask the court to adjourn the hearing,
to allow the parties to draw up the orders carefully before
presenting them to the court. (Parenting Orders – what you need to know page 54)
Glossary of Legal Terms
The final part of the document is a handy glossary of legal terms (pages 58 – 62) that can help if you are having trouble with Family Law language and jargon.
Separation and Divorce Consultation
Remember there is plenty of help for you to work out your priorities, options and plans to resolve your family law issues without violence.