Applying for parenting orders

Applying for parenting orders

If parents or carers cannot agree on arrangements for the care of children, and family dispute resolution has not worked or is not appropriate, then a family law court may need to make a decision.

The court will make a decision when one of the parents or carers applies for a parenting order.

Parenting order applications are usually made if:

  • parents cannot agree on arrangements for the children, for example, where the children will live, or who they will spend special occasions or holidays with
  • the situation of the parent or the children changes and this affects existing parenting orders, for example, where one parent moves interstate (note: if you have a parenting order made on or after 1 July 2006 and you make a parenting plan later with different arrangements, the plan will have legal force over the order)
  • there is an emergency and you or the children are at risk
  • there is family violence or child abuse
  • you need to find or return children
  • you need to prevent children from being removed from your care or moved to a new location because it affects their right to a relationship with both parents, or those significant to their care.

Before you apply

Before you make an application for a parenting order you must try to sort out an agreement with your ex-partner (or other people involved).

You must include a certificate from a family dispute resolution practitioner with your application. The certificate will say that you have either been to, or attempted to go to, family dispute resolution or that in the opinion of the practitioner, it is not appropriate for you to go. There are exceptions to this.

Who can apply

Either parent can apply for parenting orders, as can other relatives or people who are important in the children’s lives.

The law recognises that people other than parents, such as grandparents and extended family, may play an important role in children’s lives. For this reason, people other than the parents can apply for an order or be included in an order.

If everyone involved in the proceedings does not agree to the application for a parenting order, the court may ask for a report from a family consultant to discuss how the proposed arrangements for the children might work in practice. This is to help the court decide whether the order is in the children’s best interests.

Meeting with a family consultant

Family consultants are child psychologists and/or social workers who help and advise people in cases in the family law courts.

Family consultants may interview the parties and other significant people in the children’s lives. The consultant will probably also talk to the children, and may spend time with the children and the parties together.

Anything said to a family consultant is not confidential and can be ‘admitted’ (used in court) as evidence.

Consultants will tell the court their recommendations and/or findings in the way the court requests. Sometimes this may be by giving evidence in person in the court and a brief written report (an 11F report) and sometimes it may be through a Family Report.

Family reports

A family report may be ordered by the court to help the court understand the issues in dispute and the family relationships generally. The report is not made on behalf of either parent.

The report helps the court make a decision about parenting arrangements that are in the best interests of the children. It is made by a family consultant or other person approved by the court. This person can speak to the parents, the children and any other people who may have relevant information about the children or the issues in the dispute.

The report may include:

  • the background to the dispute
  • the current relationship between the parents
  • the current relationship between the parents and the children
  • the children’s views
  • how the children see the relationships with significant adults in their life
  • information on the cultural and linguistic (language) background of the children, and an opinion on how to make sure the children maintain a connection with this background
  • an opinion on how to sort out the dispute.