Children and Parenting Matters – The Family Law Act

When parents separate or divorce, everyone involved is affected, and children need special protection. It’s difficult to make a smooth transition during trying times, so the Family Law Act 1975 was established to overcome disputes which may arise.   Family Law is a complicated and crucial feature to the legal system, with children and parenting matters a high priority, making the services of Taylor & Scott Family Lawyers a worthy investment that can secure your future and the future of your child/children.

What does the Family Law Act focus on?

The Family Law Act focuses on pathways that allow people to get on with their life after divorce or separation, including those in de facto and same-sex relationships. If there is a child affected by the change, the ‘child’s best interests’ is the highest priority. Here are a few aspects of family law focus.

Parental responsibility: Both parents have parental responsibility for any children from the relationship under 18 years of age. It is presumed that it is in the child’s best interests for the parents to have “equal shared parental responsibility”.  This is different to mere “parental responsibility” which exists up until an order is made by a Court dealing with parental responsibility.  Equal shared parental responsibility means that the parties must consult and reach a joint decision regarding major long-term issues relating to the child. Major long-term issues might involve schooling, religious observance and health issues. Equal shared parental responsibility isn’t the same as equal time, so it’s important from the outset to clarify personal rights and responsibilities.

Parenting time: If you remain on good terms with your former partner or spouse, the best way forward is to come to mutual agreement regarding children and parenting matters. There is no rule dictating an even 50/50 split of time for parents with children as every family unit has unique characteristics and obstacles that need to be overcome. The goal is to achieve ongoing and meaningful relationships between both parents and their child/children.

Financial responsibility: Both parents share financial support obligations for children after separation. Arrangements can be managed independently, with the assistance of a lawyer, or through application of a child support assessment. Child support in Australia is overseen by the Department of Human Services.

The best interests of the child: In many cases, parents make their own arrangements for care of children through joint discussions. If there are obstacles, or your former partner is dragging his or her heels on the matter, Taylor & Scott mediation is the best way forward. Compromises may need to be made, so we will negotiate fairly to achieve mutually agreeable outcomes. If demands from your former partner remain unreasonable and unworkable, The Family Court will make a ruling in the best interests of the child.

Parenting Disputes - Decide who Child Lives With

Does The Family Law Act hold both parents responsible for children?

Australian Family Law provides that, in determining what parenting orders would reflect a child’s best interests, the Court must give paramount consideration to the benefit of a child in having a meaningful relationship with both parents, insofar as that is consistent with protecting the chlid from risk of harm.  It’s important that children make the transition with the least amount of stress or disruption, supported by both parents and other close relatives wherever possible. Both parents are responsible for children’s and parenting matters that include:

  • Living arrangements;
  • Schooling and education;
  • Health and wellbeing; and
  • Cultural and religious considerations.

Does The Family Law Act put the interests of the child first?

The Family Law Act prioritises the need to protect children from harm above all other parenting matters. Satisfying the best interests of the child is essential for achieving successful long-term outcomes. The care, welfare and development of the child should be prioritised, and there are several pathways for achieving the right balance:

  • A verbal agreement;
  • A written parenting plan; and
  • A binding consent order from The Family Court.

Serious care and consideration should be given when deciding whether a child is mature enough to be asked his or her view on what arrangements would be best post-separation.  More often than not, involving children in discussions regarding post-separation parenting matters causes them to feel conflicted between parents, and places them under enormous pressure and stress. Indeed, including children in discussions regarding post-separation can often lead to criticism from the Court. Such discussions and decisions are best left to responsible adult parents – not children.  If in doubt as to how to discuss matters with your child, or whether your child should be asked his or her view about post-separation parenting, you should consider us, or contacting Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.

How can Taylor & Scott help with matters involving the Family Law Act?

Taylor & Scott Lawyers are specialists in their chosen fields, including Family Law. We remain up to date with all legislation, and are well known for expert mediation and negotiations in Sydney, NSW and beyond. We will sit down with you and your former partner, or meet individually if required, and assist you to reach an agreed-upon parenting plan that satisfies your needs and those of your child/children.

If a parenting plan is drafted, it is signed by both parents and your Taylor & Scott representative. If you require greater certainty regarding your child’s future, we will help you convert a parenting plan to Consent Orders to be made by the Family Court  which will create a binding parenting order. Taylor & Scott Lawyers aim to minimise the stress  of negotiations.

At Taylor & Scott, We Care For You.