Parenting arrangements and child contact

Parenting arrangements and child contact

When a relationship ends, the law says that parents must try to agree on arrangements for their children, and think about what is best for the children.

If parents agree, they can put this agreement in writing, which can be made into legally enforceable consent orders by a court.

If parents cannot agree, they may have to try family dispute resolution.

If family dispute resolution does not work, a person can apply to the family law courts to make parenting orders. The court must make the children’s best interests its main consideration.

Whether you are separated, divorced, re-married, re-partnered or never lived together, as a parent, you have ongoing responsibilities for your children.

The law encourages parents and other people interested in the welfare of children to try to agree on arrangements for children, if the parents separate or do not live together. It is best if you and the other parent decide together what to do about your children. For example:

  • where the children will live, and who they will spend time with
  • how the children will be financially supported
  • how the children will maintain a relationship with both parents and other significant people, such as grandparents and extended family.

If you agree on arrangements

If you agree on parenting arrangements, parenting plans or consent orders are a way to record your arrangements.

If you disagree on arrangements

If you can’t reach agreement on arrangements, you can apply to the court for a parenting order. In most cases, you cannot ask a court for an order unless there has been family dispute resolution.

Protecting children from physical or psychological harm is the court's main concern. This will be addressed by the court before making any decision about arrangements.

If there is a child protection investigation

If the children are involved in a child protection case because of neglect or child abuse concerns, the family law courts do not usually consider an application until that case is finished. Child protection cases are heard in the Children's Court of Victoria.

Relocating with children

If you are considering moving your children to live at a distance that would greatly affect the time they spend with the other parent you need to:

  • reach an agreement with the other parent
  • make an application to the family law courts.

This includes moving interstate or overseas. A move like this will have an effect on the children maintaining their relationship with the other parent. The best interests of the children must be considered in these circumstances.

More information

If you agree on parenting arrangements

Parenting orders

Caring for children when you are not their parent

Supervised contact

Relocating or travelling with children

Abduction

Living with parenting arrangements

Get help

Find out how you can get help with parenting arrangements and child contact.