Children’s matters can be some of the most complex and fractious issues in law, which is why Australia has a two-tier system.
When it comes to our children, we can become fired up if a family dispute occurs. However, children’s issues and parental responsibilities demand flexibility. If you are willing to compromise about arrangements, it will lead to a better solution for both you and your children.
Under Australian law a child has a right to a positive relationship with both parents and other people significant in the child’s life. This is why Australian family law has a two-tier approach to parental obligations, which plays out in two ways: through a parenting plan or a parenting order (and sometimes both).
What’s a parenting plan and why do I need one?
If you and your former partner are able to come to an agreement around the parental responsibilities you share, you can draw up a parenting plan. While a verbal agreement can be made, it is not advisable as it lacks the rigour to withstand a dispute.
Rather than a verbal agreement, a parenting plan is a written, signed and dated document that outlines all the care arrangements necessary for your child. One of the biggest benefits of a parenting plan is its flexibility.
It can be as long or as short as you want, it can be in plain English and it can cover whatever you want it to. However, its flexibility is also a double-edged sword as it is not legally enforceable in court. If a party breaks the plan, it is not breaking the law.
Yet if it is broken by a party, the other can take them to court. Additionally, it can be used by the court as guide for creating orders that are in the best interests of the child.
A parenting plan can ensure you know what your parenting obligations are.
Why would I seek a parenting order through my family lawyer?
Like all legal issues disputes can occur. If these grievances cannot be bridged, then a court order may be needed. A parenting order is made by the court in relation to your parental responsibilities and arrangements.
Unlike a parenting plan, if a party breaks a parenting order, they may be breaking the law and could be on the receiving end of a penalty – such as a fine. However, before you can seek a parenting order, you and your ex-partner must attend mediation services as part of the family dispute resolution process.
Family law can be confusing, especially for families that have not engaged with it in the past. A family lawyer experienced in children’s issues can make the difference to your situation.
For experienced advice and assistance with children’s matters after marriage separation, speak to the Family Law team at McCarthy Durie Lawyers here or talk to us on 3370 5100.