How do I work out the best parenting arrangement for my child?
To work out the best parenting arrangement for your children, the Court must first consider what is in your child’s best interest.
To do this, the Court looks at the following main considerations:
- the benefit of children having a meaningful relationship with both parents
- the need to protect children from physical and psychological harm. This includes children seeing family violence, being neglected, or being physically or psychologically hurt.
The need to protect a child from physical and psychological harm, including family violence and abuse, is given the most weight because your child’s safety is paramount.
The Court also looks at:
- children’s views—the court will look at how much children understand and how mature they are; children don’t have to express views if they prefer not to
- the kind of relationship children have with their parents and other significant people, including grandparents, siblings and other relatives
- how much each parent has participated in making decisions about major long-term issues affecting the children including:
- how much time each parent has spent and communicated with the children during and after the relationship
- whether each parent has fulfilled or failed to fulfill their parental obligations (eg paying child support on time).
- the likely effect of any change to where children have been living or staying, including separating them from either parent, grandparents, siblings, any other relatives or other people important to their welfare
- the practical difficulty and expense of children seeing each parent, and whether that difficulty will affect their right to have a relationship with each parent; this includes spending time with or communicating with each parent
- how much each parent and any other person (including grandparents and other relatives) can provide for the children’s physical, emotional and intellectual needs
- the children’s and each parent’s maturity, background (including culture and traditions), sex and lifestyle, and anything else about the children the court thinks is important
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children’s right to enjoy their culture (including with others of that culture)
- each parent’s attitude to the responsibilities of being a parent and towards their children in general
- any family violence involving the children or their family member
- any interim, final, non-contested or police issued family violence orders that include children or their family member
- whether the orders the people involved have applied for will reduce the risk of further court proceedings
- any other considerations the court thinks important.
Often the Court will also have regard to the previous parenting arrangements and any events that have occurred post separation.
The Court will not speak directly with your child. If your child expresses any wishes those wishes will be weighed up against their age, maturity and understanding. This is done by a Family Report Writer who is usually a psychologist or social worker.
Equal shared parental responsibility
The parties have a presumption at law that it is beneficial for a child if the parents have equal shared parental responsibility. This presumption applies unless there has been child abuse or family violence by a parent or a person who lives with the parent. Of course, the Court may also take into account other factors.
Equal shared parental responsibility means both parents share decision making for major long-term issues about the children.
This includes making decisions about the children’s:
- religious and cultural upbringing
- living arrangements.
Each parent will be responsible for the day to day care of the Child
If the court decides that equal shared parental responsibility applies in your case, then it must also consider whether it’s practical and in the children’s best interests for the child to spend equal time, or substantial and significant time with each parent.
Substantial and significant time includes children spending weekdays, weekends and holidays with each parent and each parent having meaningful involvement with the children’s daily routine. It includes spending time with children at special events such as birthdays and school concerts.
When deciding whether an arrangement is practical, the court will look at:
- how equal or substantial and significant time will affect the children
- how far apart the people involved live
- each parent’s ability to share care and communicate with one another
- any other consideration it thinks is relevant.
What the Court does not take into account
What each parent wants
- Who is to blame for the separation
- What your Family think should happen