Freemont Family Lawyers provide a full range of family law services for parenting and child matters. We provide legal services to parents so they understand rights and obligations, how the family law works and their the best options and legal solutions.
Parenting Arrangements & Co Parenting
There are two primary sources of law in Victoria that affect parenting arrangements and children.
The Family Law Act 1975 Commonwealth (Family Law) applies to parents who have separated, parenting arrangements and where parents and others can bring court proceedings.
The Children Youth and Families Act 2005 Victoria (Child Protection) applies where the Victorian State child protection authority bring proceedings if they believe a child is in need of protection. This page looks at Family Law.
Family Law Parenting Solutions
There is a range of legal services available to parents and other parties under the Family Law. The best options depend on the circumstances and the solution you want to achieve.
There are specific options based on whether you have separated, or if there has been a change in circumstances or if there is an ongoing dispute about child arrangements, child abuse, family violence, neglect or other circumstances. These options are explored below.
Family law provides the laws around separating parents and parental responsibility (previously known as child custody), whom the children live with, spend time with and communicate with.
When parents cannot resolve parenting issues or if there are urgent safety concerns around children then family law court proceedings can be commenced to obtain assistance.
The Objectives of Family Law
Making parenting arrangements for children or being involved in parenting proceedings can be fraught with emotion especially where parents have different values and views about what is best for children. It can help to understand the objectives of the family law which are summarised as follows:
Ensuring children have the benefit of the meaningful involvement of both of their parents in their lives provided it is in a child's best interests.
That children receive adequate and proper parenting to help them fulfil their full potential, and that parents fulfil their responsibilities and duties to the children by providing for the children's welfare and development
That children are protected from or being exposed to physical or psychological harm, abuse, neglect and family violence.
Solutions for Parenting Arrangements
If you and the other parent have recently separated or if there are have been a change in circumstances, there are several ways to make arrangements for the children.
If you are the other parent can agree on the parenting arrangements for the children including where the children live, where and whom they spend time with, whom they communicate with and decisions that affect the welfare of the children then you do not need to take any action unless you want to formally recognise the arrangements.
A parenting plan where there are no court orders in place is a private written agreement between parents about the arrangements for the children. The parenting plan is not enforceable, but it can be considered in the future if court proceedings were to become necessary.
Parenting plans are best where there is general agreement, and parents want to have an agreement in place for the day-to-day living circumstances, special dates like birthdays, holidays, medical arrangements, communication and more. Parenting plans help parents and children establish a healthy routine and avoid disputes.
Existing Court Orders and Parenting Plans
If there are existing court orders in place, a parenting plan can be used to vary the court order by agreement in most cases. The parenting plan may be enforceable in a family law court just like parenting orders are.
Application for Consent Orders
An Application for Consent Orders is a joint application that can be made to the Family Court seeking parenting orders. The proposed orders need to be provided with the application. This type of application rarely requires attendance at Court and will usually be administratively processed.
The Family Court is likely to grant the proposed parenting orders if:
Is in the best interests of the children and ensures any children have a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
Protects the children from being exposed to or subjected to physical or psychological abuse, family violence or neglect;
And any proposed parenting arrangements are reasonably practical; and
The proposed orders meet the other requirements under the Family Law Act 1975,
Once orders are made, parents can usually vary the orders by agreement in writing, seek a variation to the orders through the Family Court or through a parenting plan.
Parents should be aware that once court orders are issued, they are orders of a court and must be complied with. If a parent contravenes a court order, the other parent can bring contravention proceedings in a family law court.
Where parents are unable to resolve a dispute or ongoing issues about parenting matters, they may need to bring the issue before a family law court to have it determined.
The most common disputes that go to court are where one parent withholds a child from the other, or where a parent moves away without the other parent's consent, where parents are unable to resolve disputes themselves, or where a parent or grandparent holds concerns about the welfare of a child.
Court proceedings carry various powers under the Family Law Act to resolve issues and disputes including through:
Family reports where a counsellor may interview the children, parents, and others to determine what the issues are and to see if the children have a view.
The appointment of an Independent Children's Lawyer who represents the children's interests in the proceedings.
The ability to compel parents to attend for psychological assessment if there are concerns about behaviour.
The ability to have a parent complete alcohol and or drug testing to determine if substance addiction or substance use is an issue.
To require documents and information be provided from third parties to be provided to or brought before a court to obtain information relevant to the dispute.
To allow expert evidence to be presented to the Court.
Where there is an ongoing dispute which cannot be resolved, court proceedings will resolve the dispute. Court proceedings are often costly and stressful; however, the ability to resolve disputes can be of great overall benefit to children and parents.
More Parenting Options and Information
Having a dispute about children is never easy especially where both parents believe that they are acting in the best interests of the child. There are many options to help parents resolve disputes and help parents come to an agreement which can be found below.
Information about parenting plans to allow parents to reach a written agreement about child arrangements.
Application for Consent Orders to allow parents to receive court orders about child arrangements.
Where parents cannot resolve disputes between them, they can bring proceedings before a court to obtain help to resolve the dispute.
Property settlements can be achieved through alternative dispute resolution, including family law mediation.
When a parent wants to relocate with a child or has already relocated with a child without the other parent's consent.