Family Laws In Australia: Understanding Your Rights As A Parent


Child custody laws are crucial during separation or divorce. Thus, the welfare of children and who has custody is a significant decision. 

Parents of a child under 18 retain responsibility for the child’s welfare and financial support, regardless of their relationship status. 

Child custody arrangements need designing. It must prioritize the child’s best interests. Therefore, if parents disagree, the court will consider several factors when granting custody and support. 

This makes legal advice and support vital to follow the breakdown of a de facto relationship or marriage. 

Also, it becomes stressful and difficult to make difficult decisions. 

However, knowing parental rights can help you navigate these situations. You can see here for details and learn more about the family laws in your state.

This article outlines what parents and others, such as grandparents, need to know when making decisions about child custody.

It also provides information on legal obligations created by a parenting order and the consequences of violating these orders.

Understanding Child Custody Laws

In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 governs child custody. It prioritizes the child’s best interests and parents’ responsibility to their child rather than their rights. 

This law is gender-neutral and does not assume parenting roles. Instead, child custody is referred to as ‘parental responsibility,’ assuming that both parents will share equal responsibility in caring for the child. 

This includes making decisions that impact the child’s long-term situation, such as living arrangements, schooling, religious upbringing, and medical decisions. 

However, the shared responsibility may vary depending on the family situation and individual decisions. The court may override this presumption if it is not in the child’s best interests.

Understanding A Parenting Order

A parenting order is a set of orders made by a court regarding a child’s care, welfare, or development. It relies on consent orders or decided after a court hearing or trial. 

The order may cover aspects such as the following: 

  • Child’s living arrangements.
  • Time spent with each parent and other people.
  • Allocation of parental responsibility.
  • Communication with parents without custody. 

Moreover, the order can require parties to follow specific steps before applying to a court to change the order and outline the dispute resolution process. 

If the order provides equal shared parental responsibility, one can jointly decide about long-term issues. However, it requires consultation and genuine effort. 

Moreover, the status of a parenting order may change if both parties develop a parenting plan in the future. You can find help from Testart Family Lawyers in Australia to understand or tweak the parenting order.

Parents must take proactive measures to ensure their children follow a parenting order, including taking reasonable steps to guarantee its implementation. 

Additionally, they should motivate their children to comply with the orders, such as spending time with another party. 

Community agencies can assist with adjusting to and following the order. The parent cannot send the child if the order mandates the following:

  • A child should spend time with the parent. 
  • Live with the parent.
  • Communicate with the parent.
  • Having parental responsibility for a child. 

In these cases, sending the child out of the country without order or written consent is a punishable offense.

The order in a parenting dispute remains in effect until the court establishes a new order or parenting plan. It applies until formally changed or entered into a parenting plan. 

If parties agree to change the arrangement, they can enter into a parenting plan or apply for consent orders. Family dispute resolution can help resolve disagreements less formally and at lower costs. 

However, parties may consider applying to a court for orders if one cannot reach an agreement. 

Seeking legal advice is essential for making informed decisions.

What Are Your Penalties For Going Against The Order?

If a person fails to comply with a parenting order, the court can only penalize them if someone else files an application alleging the infringement. 

The court has the power to determine the following conditions:

  • If the court establishes the alleged violation. 
  • The established violation had a reasonable excuse.
  • It was a less serious violation without reasonable excuse. 
  • It was more serious without reasonable excuse. 

The court may impose a penalty if the infringement was without reasonable excuse. These penalties can include the following:

  • Varying the primary order.
  • Attending a post-separation parenting program.
  • Compensating for time lost with a child.
  • Entering into a bond.
  • Paying legal costs.
  • Compensating for reasonable expenses.
  • Participating in community service.
  • Paying a fine.
  • Imprisonment sentence.

Moreover, the court may adjourn the case to allow the other party to apply for another parenting order.

Applying For A Child’s Full Custody

According to the law, both parents must share parental responsibility unless it is not in the child’s best interests. 

However, in some cases, one parent or guardian may be granted full custody due to disagreements or difficulty in maintaining an amicable relationship. 

Consequently, the court grants shared custody only during extreme circumstances.

The court considers how parents behave towards the child and each other. Therefore, in most cases, both parents get shared custody unless there is violence or abuse. 

Shared custody only sometimes means shared time spent with the child. Spending time with just one parent generally goes against a child’s best interests. 

Contact experienced child custody lawyers from Testart Family Lawyers to help you and discuss your options if you seek full custody.

Financial Cost Distribution For Full Custody

According to the Guide to Child Support in Australia, both parents are responsible for their child’s financial support and future, regardless of custody arrangements. Even if one parent has full custody, the other must provide financial support. 

Child support payments can be regular or cover specific costs like school fees. 

Therefore, it is important to seek advice from an experienced family lawyer to ensure that the child is adequately supported. You can take the process forward either through an agreement or legal action.

Know When To Approach The Court

If you and your former partner can agree on the custody arrangements, parenting time, and child support, going to court may not be necessary. 

You can create a parenting agreement with the help of a knowledgeable family lawyer or obtain consent orders approved by the court. 

If you need help making arrangements or guidance on the legal process, you can look for assistance and help.

An experienced family lawyer can help you navigate the entire process, including communicating with your former partner or their lawyer and obtaining consent orders on your behalf.

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