Victoria Legal Aid

Living with parenting arrangements

Issues that may affect your parenting arrangements, including changing parenting orders or agreements, what to do if orders are broken, and your responsibilities if you start a new relationship.

Note that the law is changing on 6 May 2024. We will update this content closer to 6 May 2024.

If you are concerned about your own situation and whether these changes might affect you, please contact us.

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 not following them.

Changing parenting orders or agreements

If there is a significant change in your situation that affects your parenting order or 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. A minor change will not be enough for the court to make a change to the order, unless you both agree.

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 not followed

‘Breaching’ (breaking) a court order is very serious, unless there is a ‘reasonable excuse’. It is also an offence to help another person breach 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). An example of a reasonable excuse might be that the person did not understand that they were breaching the order, or felt that they had to breach the order to protect the health and safety of a person, including the child.

Get legal advice if you breach 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 the court finds that a parent has not complied with an order more than once, or 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 that requires you do things such as attend counselling or maintain good behaviour
  • 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. However, they may want information about this person if you propose spending time with them with the children.

Moving to a new home

You do need to speak with your ex-partner if you want to move to another area and the move would make it 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.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for parenting arrangements, child contact and child support.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 04 April 2024

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