Section 64A of the Family Law Act 1975 sets out the objective of Division 5 under Part 7 of the Act. It provides an outline of this particular division and highlights that the following division discusses matters in relation to parenting orders. Not all parents agree on parenting arrangements due to their unique and personal circumstances. Hence, one party can apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for a parenting order.
Section 64B Family Law Act
According to Section 64B, parenting orders are basically an order that deals with parenting matters. If two parties agree on parenting arrangements, they can make parenting plans. They can then apply for consent orders to make their plans legally binding. However, if parents cannot reach mutual agreements, they will need to approach the Court for parenting orders. These orders will also set out arrangements for children like:
- Who the child will live with
- How long will the child will spend his/her time with other people (parents, siblings, grandparents, other relatives)
- Who has sole parental responsibility over the child
- Equal shared parental responsibility that still caters to the children’s best interests
- How the child will communicate with other people
- The need to provide child maintenance for children over 18
- Variation of the parenting order if circumstances change
Section 64C of the Family Law Act
According to Section 64C of the Family Law Act, “a parenting order in relation to a child may be made in favour of a parent of the child or some other person”. Parents, grandparents, or primary caretakers are allowed to apply or vary parenting orders.
Either one of these people may ask the question ‘what is a parenting order and the laws behind it?’. Hence, this article will simplify the laws behind Part VII: Division 5 of the Family Law Act and help answer the question ‘what are parenting orders?’
The Importance of Parenting Orders
Parenting orders are legally binding court orders. They are important because if they are not in place, parents will continue to argue over parenting arrangements. On the other hand, once courts make parenting orders, parents have to comply with it. It is important to ensure stability for a child after his/her parents have divorced or separated.
If parents are willing to reach agreements, they can always considering making parenting plans instead. Parties making a parenting plan must first lay out why they are making one in the first place. Is it only for themselves and how they will make decisions that will cater to their own needs?
No. Parenting plans must set out what is best for the child and not for the parents or other applicants. It’s important to note that the family court looks at what’s best for the child’s welfare and growth. If parents make decisions that reflect their own needs and interests in parenting plans, there’s a high risk to the child:
- Experiencing mental, physical, or psychological harm
- Feeling neglected because of parental disputes
- Developing an early rebellious attitude
- Receiving little to no care, guidance, and attention about school, relationships, and future careers.
- Developing severe mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Factors To Consider When Making a Parenting Plan
1. The Child’s Basic Needs
Indeed, the basic rule of thumb of a parenting plan is to provide them with proper physical and emotional needs. Each family is unique and will have different outcomes like adjusting parenting time for each parent if both parents have work. Some important points to consider in the child’s best interests include the child’s:
- Exercise routines
- Medical care
- Protection from physical, mental, and emotional abuse
- A meaningful relationship and substantial and significant time with parents, grandparents, relatives, siblings, step-siblings, and step-parents
- Mental state and physical state
2. Parenting Time
Parenting plans will also include parenting time and when and where a parent can visit. While this will change everyone’s usual routine, it’s important to tailor it that will best fit the best interests of the children.
Parents might also want to consider the following during visitation schedules.
- Distance between each parent’s home
- Distance of the school between each parent’s home
- Travelling time
- Parents’ work schedules and day-offs
There are many ways where parents can agree on schedules regarding child changeovers. Ideally, parents will choose a 50/50 schedule so everything is just and equitable. However, depending on circumstances, some parents might get more time and the other parents less.
What if the Other Parent Has an AVO Against Them?
Some parents with an apprehended violence order (AVO), may also get supervised visitation for safety purposes. For instance, Gunther received an AVO due to drug and child abuse which led to his ex-spouse divorcing him. Still, Gunther wanted to see his child at least on a regular basis. However, he will need a supervisor who oversees him during child visitation to ensure the child’s safety.
3. Short-term and Long-term Decisions for the Child
Separated or divorced parents should also consider what kind of decisions they will make for their children. Indeed, parents should not take this lightly, as this will dictate the child’s growth and will define their parenting abilities. Parents might face decisions about their child’s:
- Medical care like regular checkups or dental appointments
- Religious practises
- Cultural influences
Parents should always see to it that they reach an agreement through proper communication with each other. This not only helps them decide what’s best for their children’s growth but also helps them draft strategies that can cover future emergencies.
Let’s suppose that, Gunther suggested having a trust fund in case their child encounters a medical emergency. A few years later, their child got into a car accident and will need surgery. Gunther and his ex-spouse can then get money from their trust fund in order to fund their child’s medical bills.
Section 64D: Varying Parenting Orders
Now that parents know what are parenting orders, they might wonder if it’s possible to change one. According to Section 64D of the Act, courts will restrict the change of the current parenting arrangements. This is if parents submit a subsequent parenting plan. Only family law courts can change current parenting orders if:
- There is a need to protect the child from physical, psychological, or mental harm; and
- One of the child’s parents is likely to use coercion or duress against the other parent in order to agree in making a parenting plan.
Finalising a Parenting Order With JB Solicitors
It’s important that parents maintain their goals when drafting a parenting plan since it’s for their kids’ welfare and growth. Parents who want to draft a comprehensive parenting arrangement must seek legal advice from JB Solicitors. Our family lawyers have the experience to help parents outline the best possible arrangement that caters to their circumstances.
Parents may continue to fall into disputes when they decide to make a parenting plan. Moreover, some parents may not even understand what parenting orders are and how to deal with them. Hence, our legal advice can help you understand the details of parenting orders and their importance in parenting.
JB Solicitors’ Family Dispute Resolution
Our mediation services can also help disputed parents come to an agreement when drafting parenting plans. This will involve a family dispute resolution practitioner who will assist parties in reaching an agreement that caters to their specific and unique needs.
Contact a family lawyer today to understand what parenting orders are and how to make a parenting plan.