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.
Getting Parenting Orders doesn’t automatically mean that you will never disagree about parenting ever again and it doesn’t prevent you from updating your agreements about parenting, in most cases.
We can help you with making your co-parenting work.
Options if you have a Parenting Order
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 Family Dispute Resolution 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)
It is often a good idea to negotiate an agreement and then get a lawyer to help you to write up the proposed order in the way the court likes it.
Sometimes a bit more detail is required before your agreement can be put into orders. That might be because you didn’t spend a lot of time in family dispute resolution looking at the detail of how everything would work for you.
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? 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.
Remember there is plenty of help for you to work out your priorities, options and plans to resolve your family law issues without violence.
Compliance with Parenting Orders
This fact sheet provides information for people who believe that their parenting order has been breached and are considering taking action to try and force the other parent to comply with the order.
You will usually need to attempt family dispute resolution before you are able to go to court to try and enforce an order. That is because it is much better to understand the issues and reach an agreement than to try and force your other parent to comply with something they are not.