Parenting Orders – What You Need to Know

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One of the most difficult decisions separating parents must make, among the many decisions that confront them when their relationship ends, is reaching agreement as to the future care of their children.  Separating parents may not be in the best emotional state to make such important decisions.  Their ability to communicate is often adversely affected by the separation or the circumstances surrounding the breakdown of their relationship.

Apart from the difficulty of communicating on a highly emotional issue, parents may, and often do, confuse the needs of their children with their own needs, which can lead to further conflict.

There is a widely held belief that the ideal arrangement is one where children spend equal time with each parent, for example spending one week with one parent and the alternate week with the other and with the changeover taking place on the weekend.  However, this is not necessarily the case.   Every child has a unique personality, and the dynamics of families are equally varied.  What might be an ideal arrangement for one child may be disastrous for another.  Similarly, an arrangement whereby one parent is relegated to spending only alternate weekends with the child can be equally traumatic for both parent and child.

Where parents are unable to reach an agreement, they may ultimately seek orders (known as parenting orders) from a court (Federal Circuit Court of Australia or Family Court of Australia).  The Family Law Act (Family Law Act (Cth) 1975 (FLA)“the Act”), requires the court to have the best interest of a child as its overriding consideration when making parenting orders (S.60CA FLA).

The Act sets out a statutory framework of considerations that the court should take into account when making parenting orders.  The 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 subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect, or family violence ( s 60CC (2A) FLA).

The safety of the child is of the utmost importance and takes precedence over the benefit of having a meaningful relationship with one or both parents (s 60CC (2B) FLA)

The secondary considerations include such things as:

  • The parents’ ability to communicate with each other and deal with any issues that might arise in relation to the child while living with the other parent.
  • The practicality of the arrangement i.e., the distance between the parents’ homes, the location of the child’s school etc.
  • Any expressed wishes of the child (the age and maturity of the child is pertinent in this regard).
  • The ability of each parent to provide financial and emotional stability for the child.
  • The relationship of the child with each parent.

The court may make orders for equal shared parental responsibility, if it considers that such an order is in the best interests of the child.  If it decides against a shared care order, it will consider orders whereby the child spends substantial and significant time with each of the parents.

In cases where the court concludes that a child would be at serious risk of harm with spending time with one or both parents, the court may order that the parents spend with the child be supervised by an approved person or at a contact centre.

As you can see from this brief review, this is a complex and emotive area of law.  Timely advice and guidance from our expert family lawyer, Shelley Johnson, will help you to deal with your particular situation.  She has many years of experience in all aspects of family law and will guide you every step of the way with compassion and understanding.  She will also discuss with you the potential costs you may incur, and will endeavour to find the most cost effective way of moving forward.

If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact McLaughlin & Associate Lawyers on phone  3808 7777 or email us at

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

Principal Director
Shelley Johnson

Shelley Johnson

Senior Associate