Parental responsibility and parenting orders
In Australia, each parent of a child or children has parental responsibility until the child or children turn 18 years of age. This parental responsibility does not alter should the parents separate or remarry.
By law, with parental responsibility comes duties, authorities and responsibilities in relation to children. These are set out in sections 61B to 61DB of the Family Law Act.
Courts make parenting orders in relation to parental responsibilities. Courts can approve and make consent orders which reflect any agreement the parties might reach at any time during the court process.
The parties need to participate in pre-action procedures before an application can be made for parenting orders. This process includes attending a Family Dispute Resolution Conference.
If no agreement can be reached between the parents, it may be necessary to ask the Family Court to decide
The Family Law Act clearly states that the primary considerations are the benefit to a child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents, the need to protect a child from physical or psychological harm and from being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence, neglect or abuse. The Court must give greater weight to the consideration of the necessity to protect a child from harm.
The court considers the best interests of the child as paramount. The Family Law Act states that children have a right to know and be cared for by both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development. The court may decide that it’s in the best interests of the children to spend equal time with each parent or the court may decide that the children live with one parent and spend time with the other parent. Grandparents are recognised by the court as persons with whom the child should normally have contact. The court may also consider the wishes of the parents and the children themselves (depending on the child’s level of maturity and understanding).