The Family Law Act 1975 governs all family law matters in Australia.
The law states that parenting matters must always consider the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration. It must also ensure that children are protected from physical or psychological harm from being exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
Parents do not actually have rights over children, but rather they have “parental responsibilities”. This incorporates decision making by parents as to major long term decisions such as who children are to live with, what religion they may practice, and where they are to go to school for example.
Alternatively, children have “rights”. In other words, children have a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents so long as there are no factors which places the child at risk of harm.
It is always advisable to have parenting arrangements documented. Parties can enter into a parenting plan or consent orders. A parenting plan can include details on where children live, how they will communicate with the non-resident parent, and arrangements for birthdays and holidays. There may also be a review date built into the parenting plan which allows the parties to revisit the parenting arrangements at a later date to assess what is working well or whether something need to be changed.
Consent orders can also incorporate these arrangements but unlike a parenting plan, court orders are legally enforceable. Orders should be followed carefully. There are serious penalties for contravening parenting orders which may include a significant fine or a period of imprisonment for example.
Family lawyers can prepare parenting plans and consent orders.
For some parents, where there is a disagreement in respect to parenting arrangements, the law requires them to attend compulsory family dispute resolution, which is also known as “mediation” before embarking on making an application in court for parenting orders. In Tamworth mediation takes place at “Centacare” located in Marius Street.
There are some situations where mediation is unsuitable. For example, where children relocate without the other parent’s knowledge or where they are withheld by a parent for an extended period of time without a valid reason, if there is entrenched conflict, or if there are significant safety concerns about children being exposed to family violence, abuse or neglect when they are in the care of the other parent.
Legal advice should be sought as to whether an application to the court should be made these circumstances.
As mentioned previously, all parenting arrangements, whether detailed in a parenting plan or in court orders, must regard the child’s best interests as the paramount consideration. Parents should always enter into negotiations with the other parent with this principle firmly in mind.
At Everingham Solomons we have the expertise and experience to assist you with all parenting matters because Helping You is Our Business.
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