When a marriage or de facto relationship ends, it is important to have parenting arrangements put in place for the continued support and care of any children involved.
Whilst many couples can come to an agreement about the parenting arrangements for their children, we understand this is not always possible. Our family law team in Perth and Joondalup can assist in all child custody matters.
Orders made in relation to parenting and child custody matters are known as parenting orders. Parenting orders are made by the Family Court of Western Australia, Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
Parenting orders deal with three main areas:
- Live with arrangements, which specify who a child lives with. Live with orders were previously known as custody orders and residence orders.
- Spend time with arrangements, which specify the periods of time a child spends with a parent or other person such as a grandparent. Spend time with orders were previously known as access orders and contact orders.
- Parental responsibility.
What is parental responsibility?
Although parental responsibility is a very broad concept, it essentially means the responsibility to make decisions and arrangements for the child about various issues such as the child’s name, education, medical issues and passport.
There is a presumption under Australian family law that parents have equal shared parental responsibility. The presumption of equal shared parental responsibility applies in most cases, except in exceptional circumstances such as child abuse and family violence.
Parents who have equal shared parental responsibility must consult with each other and make joint decisions about five major long-term issues affecting their child. Those five major long-term issues are the child’s:
- religious and cultural upbringing;
- name; and
- changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent.
How does the Court determine a child’s live with and spend time with arrangements?
The Family Court’s paramount consideration when making a parenting order is always the best interests of the child.
When determining what is in a child’s best interests, the Court must consider two primary considerations as well as a range of additional considerations.
The two primary considerations are:
- the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
- the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
The additional considerations are set out in Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975 and include things such as the extent to which a parent has fulfilled, or failed to fulfil, their obligations to maintain the child, and the likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances, including the likely effect of any separation from a parent or other child.
Do parents have a right to shared care of their children?
No. Because the paramount consideration is always the best interests of the child, there is no automatic right of parents to have shared care of their children.
Shared care is also known as equal time, and used to be known as joint custody. The most common form of shared care arrangement is a week about arrangement, whereby a child spends one week with one parent and then the following week with the other parent.
The Family Law Act states that if the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility applies, then the Family Court must consider whether it would be in a child’s best interests and also practically feasible for the parents to have equal time.
Can parenting arrangements be changed?
Yes. The Family Court’s paramount consideration when making a parenting order is always the best interests of the child. Accordingly, if there is sufficient evidence to satisfy the court that it would be in a child’s best interests to change their living arrangements, the court will make orders to that effect.
Why should I talk to CS Legal about my child custody issues?
As both experienced family lawyers and parents ourselves, we understand the family law system and how important your children are to you.
We explain the law in plain English, give honest, realistic advice, and aim to minimise the conflict and achieve child-focused, cost-effective solutions.