Living with parenting arrangements

Living with parenting arrangements

Family situations change over time, especially as children get older and their needs change.

It is important to talk to the other parent if you wish to change arrangements, and try to agree. It is better to have agreements or court orders changed, rather than broken.

Changing parenting orders or agreements

If a change in your situation affects your parenting orders or registered agreement, you may need to change the order or agreement. For example, if you start a new job that makes it difficult to pick the children up on time.

If you have an order that was made on or after 1 July 2006 you can make a parenting plan with different arrangements and this plan must be followed in the parts where it is different to the order. Or you can change that order by another court order. Orders or registered agreements made before 1 July 2006 have to be changed by another court order.

If you are applying to vary (change) an existing parenting order, you must attach a certificate from a family dispute resolution practitioner with your application to show that you have tried to get an agreement about the change. There are exceptions to this. In situations where there is family violence or child abuse, a family dispute resolution practitioner may decide that you do not need to go to family dispute resolution.

In special circumstances the court will rule that a parenting order cannot be changed by a parenting plan.

Changing (or making) parenting arrangements may affect the amount of child support you receive.

If parenting orders are broken

‘Breaching’ (breaking) a court order is very serious, unless there is a ‘reasonable excuse’. It is also an offence to help another person break a court order or try to stop them from obeying a court order. ‘Reasonable excuse’ has a specific legal meaning under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth).

Get legal advice if you are accused of breaching a court order. If the court finds that you breached an order without a reasonable excuse, it can order you to participate in a parenting program run by an approved counselling service. The aim is to help people focus on the needs of their children and to sort out conflict.

The court may also change the existing order, for example, to compensate the other parent for any loss of time with the children and to vary other arrangements.

If a parent disobeys an order more than once, or if the court believes the parenting order is being ignored, there may be more severe penalties, including:

  • paying for any expenses incurred because of the breach (such as loss of airfares)
  • paying some or all of the other person’s legal costs
  • community work
  • entry into a bond for up to two years
  • a fine of up to $6600
  • a jail term of up to 12 months.

Starting a new relationship

You do not have to talk to your ex-partner about starting a new relationship. They may want information about this person if you propose spending time with them with the children.

Moving house

You do need to speak with your ex-partner if you want to move to another area and the move would make it much more difficult for the children to see their other parent. The law says you need to try to come to agreement about the move. Get legal advice.

Get help

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