Changing a Parenting Order

Changing a Parenting Order

Life rarely stands still, and just as a child grows and changes a parent’s circumstances may also change significantly. A lot can change from the time when an initial parenting order is made and the factors that determined the original parenting order may no longer apply or be relevant.

For example the maturity of the child or the parents’ living situation can change significantly over a child’s life. As a result a parent may feel the existing parenting arrangement is outdated and in need of an update. The law allows a parent to seek changes to their parenting orders and in this blog we’ll discuss how and when these can be sought.

What is a Parenting Order?

A parenting order is made by a court and provides for the parenting arrangements for a child. These arrangements will often include who the child will live with, how much time the child will spend with each parent, parental responsibilities and any other issues relevant to that particular child.

Where two parties agree to a parenting order the court will simply formalise the agreement, known as a Consent Order. If two parties do not agree on parenting arrangements, a trial will take place and the court will determine the appropriate parenting orders based on the facts of each case. Parenting orders are binding and the parties must take active steps to comply with them.

When Can a Parenting Order be Changed?

To change a parenting order you need to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances which warrants a new parenting order. This principle comes from case law first decided over 30 years ago in which the court decided that in order to vary existing parenting orders, a parent needs to show there has been a significant change in circumstances such that changing the orders is in the child’s best interests. This principle still applies today.

A ‘significant change’ is decided on a case by case basis, but may include a change in living arrangements, serious health issues, criminal charges, the views expressed by the child, a parent’s new partner or successful rehabilitation. When considering a change in parenting orders a court will also look at a number of other factors including:

Reasons for the earlier parenting order decision and the evidence upon which it was based
The interests of the child – whether any potential change to existing orders outweigh the potential adverse consequences of re-litigation
The time that has elapsed since the original parenting orders were made.

Applying to Change a Parenting Order

Where both parties agree to change the parenting order they simply need to submit new consent orders that reflect the change. Provided the new orders are in the child’s best interests, the court will make the new parenting orders. Alternatively, parties can enter into a Parenting Plan that outlines the changes. Unlike a parenting order, a parenting plan is not legally enforceable, but it will be considered if the parties end up in court to decide on parenting orders.

If parties are unable to agree on changes to the existing parenting orders they may seek to attend family dispute resolution. If parties are unable to reach an agreement at mediation, the parent who wants to change the existing orders may consider filing a new application with the court.

If you believe circumstances have changed enough to justify the variation of existing parenting orders, you should seek the advice of a lawyer. A lawyer can advise if your changed circumstances are likely to be considered ‘significant’ and whether any application to the court will be successful. Alternatively, if you are able to reach an agreement with the other parent, a lawyer can help you draft new consent orders.

Taylor & Scott Lawyers specialise in family law and have helped thousands of families through the emotional and complicated parenting arrangements. They bring years of understanding and practical solutions to your case so it can be resolved quickly and efficiently.

Contact the Taylor & Scott family law team on 1800 600 664 or fill out the online contact form for more information on how they can help you.

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