What do I do if we can’t agree on parenting arrangements for the children?

The Family Law Act states that each parent has parental responsibility for their child up until the age of 18 years.  This is the case whether you are still together as a family or separated.   

Parental responsibility is defined in the Family Law Act as all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children.  Often, parents are able to come to an agreement about their respective parental responsibilities in relation to children.  This agreement can be informal in the form of a parenting plan.  A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents covering the practical issues of parental responsibility such as specifying how much time a child spends with either parent, schools to be attended and extra-curricular activities.  A Parenting Plan is ideal in situations where one or both parents are not sure if the proposed arrangements will work well.  They can just try out the arrangements for a while to see.  If things don’t work out, then parents should attempt to resolve disputes about parenting matters using family dispute resolution services. 

If a Parenting Plan is working well and both parents abide by the Parenting Plan, it is a low-cost amicable way to set down the rules.  However, major problems can develop if one or both parents deviate from the Parenting Plan.  A Parenting Plan is not legally enforceable! 

In situations where parents intend to put in place long term parenting arrangements, a better way to achieve certainty is for the parents to jointly apply to the Family Court for Consent Orders regarding parenting.  Once Consent Orders are made by the Family Court, they are legally enforceable.  So, if one party breaches the Consent Orders, the other party can ultimately ask the Court to deal with the defaulting parent in a Contravention Application.

Usually, unless there is an Intervention Order in place, parents must attempt to resolve parenting disputes using family dispute resolution services.  If an agreement is reached, then Consent Orders in the Family Court could be made.  If no agreement can be reached, then the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner can issue a Certificate pursuant to Section 60I of the Family Law Act.  Such a certificate is usually required to enable a person to initiate Family Court or Federal Circuit Court Proceedings for Parenting Orders.

If you and your spouse/partner have separated and have children, then it is essential that you obtain legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity.  At Melbourne Family Lawyers, our experienced lawyers can advise you as to where you stand legally and guide you through the entire process.  It is best to obtain advice at an early stage to make sure that your actions do not jeopardise what you are trying to achieve.   Get the best Family Law legal advice available.  Telephone Melbourne Family Lawyers on +613 9670 9677 or click on the Make An Enquiry button on this page.

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