Options for dealing with disputes with my partner about arrangements for my children.
Parents may have conflicting opinions as to what are in the best interests of their children. In order to have clarity, we recommend that parents choose to either create a Parenting Plan or to apply to the court for Consent Orders.
A parenting plan is an informal arrangement usually reached through negotiation between the parents and mediation or legal services. It is important to understand that these agreements are NOT enforceable. A court can consider what has been agreed to in a parenting plan if you have later court proceedings dealing with parenting issues.
A parenting plan must be in writing, signed and dated.
This is an agreement which can be made after negotiating with the other parent, usually with the help of a lawyer. Once both parties consent to a set of rules or orders, a formal document is filed with the Family Court. If the document is approved by the court, it now becomes a legally binding document that is enforceable by the law.
The Courts decide what parenting orders to make for a child on the basis of the best interests of that child. The law says that in determining the best interests of a child, the Court’s primary considerations must be:
- 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 Court must give greater weight to this consideration.
The court will then determine who a child is to live with, the times that a child will spend with the other parent, how parents will communicate with a child and any other orders which the court deems fit to make.
The Court presumes that parents will have equal shared parental responsibility. This means that the parents need to come to an agreement about long term decisions of the child, such as education, religion, health, the child’s name and changes to the living arrangements of a child.
For both agreements, it will often be important to get legal advice. The agreements you make about where children live and where they spend their time can also affect your future in ways that may be hard for you to foresee.