Childrens Matters and
 The Family Law Court Melbourne

The Family Law Act stipulates the best interests of the child as the most important consideration when deciding on a child's living arrangements to be made when parents separate.

When making a Parenting Order in relation to a child, the Family Court will apply a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child's parents to have equal shared parenting responsibility for the child.  For further information on this refer to our article Parenting Orders and the Presumption of Equal Shared Parenting Responsibility in the Reading Room.

Equal shared parental responsibility is different to equal parenting time, which refers to the time which children spend with each parent. Equal shared parenting means both parents have a say in making major long-term decisions about the children.  Such major long term decisions would usually include medical issues, the type of education a child is to receive, and religious and cultural matters.  Day-to-day decisions, such as what clothes the children wear or what they have for breakfast, are not categorised as major long-term decisions.

Often when parents separate, the most difficult problem to resolve is determining how much time a child should spend with each parent.  The court assesses whether it is practical and in the best interests of the children for them to spend equal time or ‘substantial and significant time’ with each parent.  It is usually seen as beneficial for both parents to have a meaningful involvement in the different aspects of their children's lives including during the week, on weekends, on holidays and on special occasions.

There is no defined age when the law allows children to decide which parent they would like to live with or spend time with. A Court will take into account a child's wishes but there is no obligation on a Court to follow those wishes in reaching a decision concerning that child.  When making parenting orders, the Court does not usually hear directly from children.  However, a child's views can be brought to the attention of a Court through an Independent Children’s Lawyer or through a Family Report prepared by a Family Consultant such as a Psychologist.  A Family Report may be ordered by the Court to assist the Judge better understand the issues in dispute, and the family relationships generally, with the assistance of a child-focussed professional.  The role of an Independent Children’s Lawyer is to represent the child's interests in a case and to assist the Judge in deciding what arrangements are in the child’s best interests. The Independent Children’s Lawyer does not "take instructions" from the child but is bound to ensure that the child's views are put before the Court. 

Resolving Disputes about Children  

Save under exceptional circumstances, the Family Law Act requires you to make an attempt to resolve disputes about parenting matters using Family Dispute Resolution Services before applying to a court for a Parenting Order.  We are able to assist you in taking this step.  If you fail to reach agreement about either the future arrangements for your children, then you will need a lawyer to prepare a Court Application on your behalf.  The Court Process will still enable you to resolve your dispute using court assisted mediation and further negotiations, but if this fails a Judge will ultimately decide what is best for your children after considering all of the evidence at a Final Hearing.

If you have a Children’s Matter and want to receive the best possible outcome for your child or children, you need to seek expert advice.

Child Support

The Australian Child Support Scheme is designed to ensure that both parents contribute towards the costs of raising a child. If you are the parent of a child, you have the legal obligation to financially support that child even if you and the child's other parent were not married or living together.

The Child Support Scheme is administered by the Australian Government through the Child Support Agency.  

Child Support is calculated using a complex formula.  When assessing Child Support in accordance with this formula, the Child Support Agency considers:

  • Both parents' income; 
  • If any other children are being supported; 
  • The ages and costs of raising children (based on the combined income of the parents); and 
  • The amount of time each parent cares for the children ('care levels').

Sometimes, as an alternative to the child support formula assessment some parents wish to reach their own private arrangement that contains the amount of child support to be paid, in what form, and how it should be paid. 

When we advise you on your case, we are usually able to provide you with an estimate of Child Support payable in your particular circumstances.

Melbourne Family Lawyers have extensive experience in Children's Matters including:

  • Resolution of disputes regarding Parenting, Residence (custody) and Time Spent with either parent (contact, access or visitation) 
  • Agreements on Residence, Shared Residence and Contact 
  • Contested Court Hearings 
  • Child Abduction (including international cases involving the Hague Convention) 
  • Cases involving relocation of children's residence to interstate or overseas 
  • Paternity Disputes 
  • Advice on Child Support issues 
  • Child Support Agreements 
  • Child Support Applications 
  • Child Support Trusts   

For further Specialist Family Law advice, call Melbourne Family Lawyers today for an appointment on (+613) 9670 9677.  

Established in Melbourne since 1985.

For more information on Children’s Matters or other interesting Family Law Articles, please go to our   

Reading Room.

Childrens Matters and
 The Family Law Court Melbourne Articles

  • Defending an Intervention Order in Victoria 25 January 2017 - An Intervention Order is a Court Order which is made by a Magistrate in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria against a person (the Respondent) who has committed family violence against a family member (the Aggrieved Family Member).
  • Can I move with my child to live in a different suburb or outside of Melbourne without the other parent’s consent? 20 July 2016 - Some of the most frequent questions asked by clients of Melbourne Family Lawyers are concerning the issue of whether the client is allowed to take a child to live somewhere else, be that within Australia or overseas.
  • The Best Family Law Advice from Melbourne Family Lawyers 20 July 2015 - At Melbourne Family Lawyers, we don’t offer a “free” first consultation and use it to market our services to you. The first meeting with one of our lawyers is scheduled for one hour because we know it will take a bit of time to listen to your story so that we can understand your situation and what is important to you and what you would like to achieve.
  • Beware of Family Lawyers offering Free Initial Consultations 26 November 2014 - Have you come across the recent advertising from Family Lawyers offering “free initial consultations”? Have you stopped to think why those lawyers are doing that?
  • The Question: How much overnight time should a child spend with the other parent? 30 June 2014 - This is a question clients often posed to Family Lawyers and Family Law Court judges. Whilst each parent may have a different personal (often rigid) opinion, what do the experts have to say about this?
  • How much overnight time should a child spend with the other parent? 23 June 2014 - It used to be the case that “expert opinion” was that children under three were considered to have a primary attachment with their primary carer (often the mother) and it was best for them to spend most of their time with the parent with whom they had the primary attachment. The other parent was encouraged to have regular but frequent contact of a few hours once or twice a week. Amendments to the Family Law Act in 2006 were enacted to promote the following objectives to guarantee that the best interests of children are met.
  • Choosing the best Family Lawyers – Is it worth travelling to Melbourne? 26 November 2013 - Many people believe that it is not worth the hassle of coming into Melbourne to get advice from a Specialist Family Lawyer. There are good reasons why Melbourne Family Lawyers is located in William Street Melbourne (adjacent to the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia).
  • What to Expect from a Family Lawyer 8 November 2013 - A Family Lawyer will advise you as to his or her opinion as to where you stand when applying the applicable Family Law to your particular situation. However, a Family Lawyer will never be able to provide you with a definitive outcome in your case as the outcome of your case will depend on the following.
  • Defending a Family Law Property Settlement Case in Melbourne Family Law Courts 14 October 2013 - If you receive an Initiating Application which is to be heard in the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, you are entitled to put your position to the Court by filing a Response together with other court documents required under the Family Law Rules. Those other documents may include sworn Affidavits and/or a Financial Statement (for property settlement or maintenance cases).
  • How do you Change existing Child Custody and Contact Orders (Parenting Orders) in Australia? 25 June 2013 - As children grow older and relationships change, a previously made Court Order concerning the arrangements for the care of a child or children may no longer be appropriate. However, the Court Order remains in force until one (or both) of the parties to the court order initiate legal action to legally change it. If both agree, whilst it is possible to informally change the ongoing care arrangements for children without changing the court orders, it may lead to problems should someone later change his/her mind. It is usually better to legally formalise child arrangements with court orders.
  • Family Violence Safety Notices and Intervention Orders under the Family Violence Protection Act Victoria 23 May 2013 - In Victoria, legal protection is available for family members and their associates who need protection from a family member who is subjecting them to family violence. Family violence has a broad legal definition which includes abuse which is physical, sexual, emotional, threatening, economically abusive, or, in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for his/her safety.
  • Which Family Law Court in Melbourne? 8 April 2013 - Clients are sometimes confused about which Family Law Court is appropriate to hear their case in Melbourne. This is understandable as there are three separate courts on the same street in Melbourne which have jurisdiction on Family Law related issues.
  • Can I move out of Victoria without a Family Law Court Order? 1 March 2013 - Whether you are allowed to move out of your current home to a new place depends on a number of factors.
  • Finding the Best Family Law Firm in Melbourne 15 January 2013 - So your spouse has just announced, "It's over!" and you need to find a law firm to help guide you through one of the most stressful situations you are going to face. Where do you start? Do you go back to your local conveyancing law firm who looked after the purchase of your home?
  • Why are there more Intervention Orders in the Melbourne Magistrates Court? 14 December 2012 - Over the past years, there has been a great increase in the number of Court Applications made to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for the granting of Intervention Orders under Victoria’s Family Violence legislation. There may be a number of reasons for this.
  • Parenting Orders 12 March 2012 - Section 61DA of the Family Law Act requires a Court, when making a parenting order in relation to a child, to apply a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child's parents to have equal shared parenting responsibility for the child.
  • Collaborative Family Lawyers - What Women (and Men) Want! 10 August 2011 - Marriage is a strange phenomenon that happens to human beings. And the best part is, both the unmarried and the married are unhappy, though for radically opposite reasons, one for not being married, and the other for being married.
  • Finding out with Family Law: Parentage Tests 14 January 2011 - Parentage tests determining the parent of the child may be needed for Family Law Lawyer matters such as child support payments, custody, access, inheritance and adoption. But with these matters, more matters arise including questions about processes and legal requirements.
  • Family Court Stops Mother Taking Children Overseas to live 30 July 2010 - In the case of Cowley and Mendoza decided in the Family Court of Australia in July 2010, a mother of two young children aged 3 and 5 was refused permission to take those children back to her home-land of Brazil. The father was an Australian and he had met the mother whilst on a back-packing holiday.
  • Family Court Pre Action Procedures 9 March 2009 -
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