Courts have the power in varying a parenting order in family law proceedings. Usually, parents, relatives, grandparents, and other people concerned with the care and welfare of a child are involved in parenting orders. Family courts make parenting orders for divorced couples in order to lay out parenting arrangements for a child like:
- Living arrangements for the child. However, courts will make sure that the living arrangement won’t affect the child’s quality time with the other parent;
- Who and where will the child spend time with;
- Communication methods for the other parent whom the child won’t live with;
- Medical issues;
- Religious or cultural practices;
- How to work out child support payments and transactions;
- Allocation of parental responsibility for the parenting arrangements. A person with parental responsibility has the obligation and freedom to decide on a child’s long-term issues. Some of these long-term issues are school and medical arrangements, name changes, and living arrangements;
- If choosing between equal shared parental responsibility or sole parental responsibility is necessary to uphold a parenting order
- How both parents will resolve unforeseen circumstances that may lead to significant changes to parenting arrangements; and
- Any other aspect of the care, welfare, and development of a child.
Courts will draft a parenting order either through a court hearing or consent (consent orders). Parenting orders granted through a court hearing typically take longer because of the procedure. While parenting orders made through consent orders are more efficient since both parties have agreed on their own parenting arrangement. Read on to know more about courts varying a parenting order.
Section 70NBA: Variation of a Parenting Order
According to Section 70NBA of the Family Law Act 1975, courts have the jurisdiction to vary a primary parenting order. The courts may also vary a parenting order if a person contravened or breached a primary order. While varying a parenting order, courts will adhere to the two primary considerations of the child’s best interests which are:
- The child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with both of his/her parents, relatives, grandparents, and other significant people in his/her life
- The child’s right to have protection from violence, abuse, and neglect. Parents, relatives, grandparents, and any other people concerned with a child’s safety and care may file an apprehended domestic violence order (ADVO) if they suspect any instances of family violence.
Section 70NBA also outlines the need for people (who contravene a parenting order) to attend a post-separation parenting program. Essentially, these types of programs help people who contravene parenting orders to fix their attitudes. These programs may also educate them on the importance of the parenting order and how it can help their children.
Section 70NBB: Varying a Parenting Order With Parenting Plans
Did you know that parenting plans have an effect when courts are varying a parenting order? Parenting plans are basically parenting arrangements that are not legally bound. For instance, divorced couples George and Mary made parenting plans for their child. Fortunately, both of them have trusted each other well enough not to take their matters to court even in the long run.
According to Section 70NBB, divorced couples may make parenting plans that will deal with any changes they want in a parenting order. Let’s take George and Mary as an example again. The couples agreed that they each get a full week with their child with the changeover happening every Sunday evening.
However, George felt like he should get more time with his child. He then opened up to Mary about the changes he wanted and explained his reasons. Mary reluctantly agreed to his reasons and decided on varying a parenting order with a parenting plan. This resulted in George having a week plus 3 days with his child.
However, courts must always regard the terms of the parenting plan if ever George and Mary want to vary their parenting order. It’s important to note that any action that will violate a parenting order because of an inconsistent parenting plan may result in a court not considering it a violation. The terms of the parenting plan will determine whether or not this is the case.
Varying a Parenting Order: Final Parenting Orders
Basically, final parenting orders are made at a final hearing where a judge makes his/her legally binding decision. This happens when the parents are unable to reach an agreement and so decide to file an application with the Court. Final parenting orders remain in force until children reach the age of 18. There are two options for changing final parenting orders in a legally binding way:
Option 1: Agreement With the Other Parent
Parents may enter into an agreement (and subsequently apply for a consent order) for varying a final parenting order. They may propose the necessary changes to the other parent and document it in the agreement. However, the court will only consider the proposed changes if they are in the child’s best interests.
Option 2: Mediation
Not all the time will parents agree with varying a final parenting order or even agree on some terms and conditions of the proposed changes. This ultimately results in parenting disputes which will require mediation. Mediation is basically an alternative dispute resolution method that allows disputed parties to come up with their own solution. Again, the court will only approve changes if it is in the child’s best interests.
Seek Legal Advice From Family Lawyers
Family lawyers have legal knowledge when it comes to a variety of family law matters including cases related to varying parenting orders. Indeed, a lot of parents may want to avoid changes to parenting orders and opt to solve them with a parenting plan. However, this doesn’t work out all the time since parenting plans aren’t legally binding.
This results in some parents taking this as an opportunity to easily breach the parenting plan and the order. Moreover, some parents just agree to a parenting plan because they fear that the other parent who proposed the plan will harm them in some way. That’s why it’s important to seek legal advice from the best family lawyers like JB Solicitors.
JB Solicitors believes that varying a parenting order is possible with the right kind of alternative dispute resolution method. With our mediation services, we can help disputed couples avoid court procedures if they want changes to their parenting order. During mediation, some disputed couples may even realise that changes in the parenting order may not necessarily be in the child’s best interests.
Contact our family-friendly team of solicitors today.