Parenting & Child Support Solicitors

Often the most difficult decisions that need to be made after the breakdown of a relationship relate to the children of that relationship. These decisions will usually concern:

  • Where the children are to live;
  • How much time they will spend with each parent; and
  • How the parents will make the important decisions that relate to the children’s care and welfare after separation.

Sometimes the parents can reach an agreement on their own and do not require court intervention. In these situations, it is necessary to put that arrangement in writing to formalise it. Before doing this, it is important to obtain legal advice so that your legal rights, and those of your children, are protected.

Often, however, it is not possible for the parents to come to an agreement concerning the important decisions relating to their children. When this occurs, a court will need to make the decisions for the parents based on what is in the best interests of the children.

Regardless of your situation, we can provide friendly, easy to understand advice that is tailored to your needs. Whether you require assistance negotiating a parenting arrangement with your partner or you require representation at a hearing, we always protect your interests and aim to resolve your matter as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our goal is to reduce to need for litigation, thereby minimising your legal costs and stress.

Children of any relationship, whether it be a marriage or a de facto relationship require arrangements to ensure their care and welfare are looked after and the processes that apply for children of a marriage are the same as those for children of any other relationship. Also, unlike the divorce process, you do not need to wait 12 months after separation to deal with the significant decisions that affect your children; these can be dealt with straight away.

After separation, there are several options available to you and your partner to address the important decisions and arrangements that concern your children:

Parenting plans

A Parenting Plan is an arrangement made between parents concerning matters that relate to their children. Such matters usually concern where the children are to live, when they will spend time with each parent, which school the child is to attend and any arrangements for birthdays, Christmas and school holidays.

The advantage of a Parenting Plan is that you do not need to go to a court to make one. It simply needs to be in writing and signed by each party. The drawback, however, is that Parenting Plans are not legally-binding. This means they cannot be enforced by a court if one parent breaches the arrangement.  

Despite not being legally binding, Parenting Plans will be taken into account by a court when making any future determinations concerning the children so they are still very important.

Parenting orders

Parenting orders are a more formal way of making arrangements for the children of a relationship that has broken down. They are made by a court, either with the consent of the parties to the relationship or as the result of a contested hearing. Parenting orders are also enforceable by the Court which means that penalties can be issued to parties that breach them. This gives extra protection to your interests as a parent which can provide you with greater peace of mind.

Parenting orders can deal with three main topics:

  1. How much time the child is to spend with each party
  2. Where the child is to live
  3. Other aspects of parental responsibility such as the child’s education

We will always attempt to assist you in negotiating a resolution to any dispute concerning your children. This is always the desired outcome as it minimises the harm caused to the child as a result of long and drawn-out hearings. Where such a resolution is possible, we can prepare consent orders for you which are then put before the Court and sealed, at which point they become parenting orders.

Where a negotiated resolution is not possible, however, it is necessary to apply to the Court for parenting orders. In this situation, the Court decides what the orders will contain. The Court’s paramount consideration will be what is in the best interests of the child, regardless of what the parents believe. However, the Court must attempt to facilitate the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Applications for parenting orders are made to the Federal Magistrates Court or the Family Court. Before making an application, it is mandatory that the parents undertake counselling with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and provide evidence of this with a certificate from that practitioner. The purpose of this is to ensure that parents have made a genuine attempt to resolve their dispute.

Child support

In addition to considerations of where a child is to live and how much time he or she is to spend with each parent, consideration also needs to be given to the cost of raising that child. Child support is a sum of money paid by one parent to the parent with whom the child is living in order to assist with that cost.

Child support is a matter which can be determined by the parties themselves via a Child Support Agreement or it can be determined by the Child Support Agency (CSA).
If determined by the CSA, the actual amount paid will be calculated based on a formula which takes into account such things as the income of each parent, the number of children of the relationship and the level of care required for each child. This is known as a Child Support Assessment. Applications can be made to the CSA to vary a Child Support Assessment.

We can provide expert advice to inform you of your eligibility to receive Child Support. If a determination has been made by the CSA that affects you, we can also assist you to have that reviewed. As always our team takes a friendly approach that is tailored to your situation and aims to obtain for you and your children the best result possible.

FAQS

  1. Who can apply for parenting orders?
  2. Can parenting orders be reviewed?
  3. My ex-partner has breached our parenting orders, what can I do?
  4. My ex-partner has told me they intend to relocate and I’m concerned they may take our child with them, what should I do?
  5. I’m unhappy with an assessment made by the Child Support Agency, what can I do?

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