Fact sheet – Arrangements for children after separation

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What’s most important for my children?

When a relationship ends, the law ensures that the needs of children are prioritised.

You and your ex are encouraged to make an agreement together on how you will continue to care for your children. Many people find family dispute resolution (FDR) helpful to discuss options and come to an agreement, however if you and your ex cannot agree after FDR, a Court can make decisions about your what arrangements should be made for your children. A Court will look at what is best for your children given their individual circumstances. Each parent shares responsibility for children and the law presumes that this responsibility will be shared equally.

How can my ex and I agree on how to parent our children now the we are separated?

There are a variety of ways in which you and your ex can make a plan to meet your children’s needs. The first thing to remember is that the children do not belong to you. They are entitled to know and have a relationship with both of their parents provided they are safe and it is in their bests interests.

What is Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)?

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a type of mediation for helping separating families to come to their own agreements. It is a requirement that you attempt mediation before applying to Court. The person or people facilitating FDR will not take anyone’s side, but help you and your ex talk in a safe environment. If you have concerns about how safe mediation may be for you, especially if you have experienced violence, then you should talk to a lawyer to help determine what is the best approach to make arrangements for your children.

If you and your partner can agree, there are two ways you can make arrangements for your children:

  1. Parenting plans

A parenting plan is a written agreement between you and your ex-partner which details how you will continue to care for your children. A parenting plan can be registered with the Family Court and contains details such as where your children will live, the days and times that they will see you, how you will help pay for their living expenses, and how you will continue to make decisions about parenting together with your ex. To make a parenting plan you will either need to meet with a family and child counsellor, or you and your ex-partner will need to each talk with a lawyer. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia provides you with a kit if you wish to prepare these orders yourself, otherwise a lawyer can help you.

  1. Consent orders

Consent orders are similar to parenting plans, except you are asking the Court to assess whether the agreement you have made is in the best interests of your children. To make consent orders you and your ex don’t have to meet with a family and child counsellor or speak with a lawyer, however we still recommend seeking legal advice before signing consent orders.

Consent orders are made by a Court and so can be enforced if you or your ex do not follow them.

What if I can’t agree about what’s best for my children?

If you and your ex are not able to agree about parenting your children, you may ask a Court to make arrangements for you.

A Court will take into account a number of things before it makes decisions about your children. The Court will first consider how your children can have a meaningful relationship with both you and your ex while also protecting them from physical or psychological harm and family violence. The Court will also take into account such things as the nature of the relationship between the children and parents, you and your ex’s ability to provide for their emotional, and physical well-being, relationships the children have with other people like grandparents, cultural, religious and any other significant issues as may be unique to your children. The Court will look at all of these things to determine what is best for your children. You should speak with a lawyer first if you think you may need the Court to make a decision about your children.

Last updated: 27-September-2021