Gaining time with your children after separation or divorce … A father’s perspective

The process of separating and/or getting a divorce can be traumatic for everyone, but when children are involved, working out parenting arrangements can significantly add to the stress, complexity, and burden.

While Australian family law requires the consideration of equal time between separated parents and their children, there are reasons why sometimes that does not happen. Sadly, fathers often feel disenfranchised from their role as caregivers and parents to their children but it is important they understand how the law and the courts operate, so as to dispel many myths they may have heard from others.

The Law

When it comes to parenting arrangements, the law does not distinguish between mothers and fathers. Decisions are made based on what is in the best interests of the particular children in question and whether court orders are reasonably practicable.

Under the Family Law Act 1975, there are two main pillars to consider in parenting matters:

  1. Parental responsibility which relates to decision-making powers concerning long-term care, welfare and development issues for the children, such as their education, health and religion.
  1. Living and time arrangements (previously called “child custody”) which relate to the time children will spend or communicate with each parent.

Research into parenting arrangements

In recent studies by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), around 3% of parents use courts to make parenting arrangements. These predominantly include family violence, child safety concerns and other complex issues. The other 97% of parents do not need to go to court to resolve parenting arrangements, although 16% will use lawyers or family dispute resolution services to help them reach agreement.

These studies also show it is most common for children to spend the majority of time with their mother and see their father regularly.

Most notably, these studies show that arrangements, where children spend most of their time with their father, are more common in orders made under litigation (10-19%).

Relevant Considerations

The court must first and foremost ensure any orders it makes protects the children from any physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence. A meaningful relationship between the children and both their parents is also a primary consideration that is taken seriously.

The court will then take several other factors into account when determining parenting  arrangements, including but not limited to:

  • The views of the children depending on their ages and maturity
  • The history of the relationship between the children and each parent
  • Practical elements such as distance and the emotional or physical needs of the children
  • Communication between parents as well as their ability and willingness to foster a co-parenting relationship with each other
  • Availability of parents

If you have any questions about your options and obligations as a father or would like legal advice about your parenting arrangements, get in touch by calling 1800 600 664 or contact us online.

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