Tips on effective child care arrangements following separation

Going through an emotional divorce can be a draining and traumatic experience for the parents. It is usually even worse for the children. It is often the case that the children don’t understand what is happening and why changes are occurring in their lives, which is often the cause of their confusion and distress.

Consequently, you want to retain some semblance of normality during your divorce proceedings. In accordance with Australian law, children are required to have meaningful relationships with both of their parents, while being protected from harm. If you want to ensure that your children are the focus of your divorce, read the following article on the specifics of child care arrangements.

The best interests of the child

The main piece of legislation governing separations in Australia is the Family Law Act 1975. The act is gender-neutral, meaning it does not intentionally favour a specific gender, nor does it make assumptions about parenting-related roles. At the end of the day, the court will make a decision that considers the best interests of the child. However, not all cases need to go to court. According to Luke Shanahan from Shanahan Law, a parenting plan is jointly worked out between the two parents, meaning ‘you and your former partner do not need to go to court.’

A breakdown of “parental responsibility”

Equal shared parental responsibility refers to the fact that both parents share the responsibility of caring for the child or children. This includes making decisions that could affect the child’s long-term future. It could be anything from religious affiliations, school selections or anything major related to health (physical, psychological). However, a parent can lose their parental responsibility if a court deems that removing their rights is in the best interest of the child or children involved. It is important to understand that equal parental responsibility does not translate into equal parenting time.

The myth of the “50:50 rule”

After you have separated from your former partner, custody arrangements need to be made to ensure that the children get access to both parents. There is no rule in the current family law framework that stipulates the children need to split their time exactly 50:50 between both parents. Often, this type of arrangement is too difficult to manufacture and live by, so certain compromises need to be made, in terms of time shared and financial compensation.

Your options

Fortunately, there are many ways that separated families can organise their time so that the children continue to have meaningful relationships with both parents. One has already been discussed, which is a parenting plan. Basically, the parents can formally agree outside of the courts on how the children will be cared for in the foreseeable. This is the preferred option for the courts.  Parenting plans don’t just focus on time arrangements, they can also include child support payment plans. One of the drawbacks of a parenting plan is the fact that it is not legally enforceable. Therefore, if you have trust issues with your spouse, this option is probably not your best bet.

Consent Orders

Another option available is the creation of “consent orders.” This involves you creating formal documents that outline the specifics of your parenting plan, which need to be approved by the courts. This is the most common form of devising child care arrangements following a separation. Unlike a parenting plan, consent orders are legally enforceable because they have been filed in the Family Court and, as such, become an Order of the Court. As a result, if one of the parents does not following the consent orders, they risk having their privileges revoked.

Clearly, there are many different components to Australia’s family law framework. If you are struggling through a divorce and are confused at any stage about the process, just revisit this guide for further clarification.

Christian Woods
Christian Woods
Christian is a morning reporter and technology columnist for Best in Australia. Christian has worked in the media since 2000, in a range of locations. He joined Best in Australia in 2018, and began working in Melbourne in 2019.
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