When parents separate, the arrangements for the care of their children need to be determined and decisions made about whom the children will live with, how much time they will spend with the other parent and other significant people in their lives, and what will happen on special occasions such as birthdays and at Christmas. Parents also need to make decisions relating to major issues in their children’s lives such as where they will go to school, what religion they will be brought up in, whether they will have a certain medical procedure undertaken and the like. By law, parents are required to make decisions that are in their children’s best interests at all times.
In late 2008 new laws came into place that now formally recognise same sex parents of children born through assisted conception procedures, approved adoption procedures and approved surrogacy procedures where both parents consented to the procedure and were in a de facto relationship at the time of conception.
The Family Law Act provides that, so far as it is consistent with their children’s best interests, parents should have a meaningful involvement in their children’s lives, and that parents should fulfil their parenting duties and responsibilities. Children also have the right to have adequate and proper parenting, and to know and be cared for by both parents. There is no law that says that children have to spend equal amounts of time with both of their parents, although this may be appropriate in some cases.
Under the current law, there is a presumption that parents have equal shared parental responsibility for their children which includes the responsibility to make major decisions about where their children live, their schooling, religion and the like. Sometimes equal shared parental responsibility may not be in a child’s best interests. Our Family Lawyers are able to discuss parental responsibility with you to help you decide what is appropriate in your individual circumstances.
Most of the time parents are able to put the interests of their children first and are able to reach agreement about what is best for their children. Sometimes parents want to have a formal arrangement in place to provide their children, and themselves, with stability and a routine. Other times, parents cannot agree on what arrangements are best for their children or on a specific aspect of their children’s care, welfare and development. In these situations, Orders can be made by the Court either by agreement between the parents, or, if agreement cannot be reached, upon the Court conducting a hearing into what is in the child’s best interests. Alternatively, a parenting plan can be entered into and which can record the agreement reached between parents about a variety of parenting matters.
At Doolan Callaghan Family Lawyers, we appreciate the complexities that arise when families separate and the difficulties that are faced by parents and children. Our Family Lawyers can make recommendations to you about appropriate parenting arrangements in your individual circumstances and can assist you to negotiate the best possible outcome for your children. Sometimes it is necessary for the Court to be asked to make a decision about parenting issues. Where this is necessary, our clients are able to draw on our wealth of Court experience so as to achieve workable solutions that are consistent with their children’s best interests.