Parenting Arrangements and Child Custody

What is child custody?

Child custody is a legal term referring to the living and parenting arrangements of a child. The child may or may not have any contact or spend time with the other parent depending on the circumstances. In Australia, the Court will not make a child custody order. Instead, it will make a ‘live with’ order and it will also consider if the parents should have equal ‘shared’ parental responsibility or ‘sole’ parental responsibility.

What is equal shared parental responsibility?

Parental Responsibility refers to the major long-term decisions relating to a child. For example what school they attend and what medical care they receive. The Court will start with the presumption that the parents should have Equal Shared Parental Responsibility. In some instances, an order can be made for Sole Parental Responsibility.

Is equal time always appropriate?

Equal time is not always in the best interest of the child. Example of what should be considered is the age of the child, the needs of the child and any risk that the child may be exposed to.

Is there a limitation period to make an application for Parenting Orders?

There are no limitation periods that will prevent you from making an application to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court for parenting orders.

What is a Rice & Asplund hearing?

In the event that the Court has already made parenting orders some time ago and your application is that those orders be set aside, you will need to provide evidence that there has been a change of circumstance or fact.

If there are existing orders in place, the court may have a discreet hearing at the commencement of the matter to determine if there has been a change of circumstance or fact. This hearing often referred to as a Rice & Asplund hearing.

What is an 11F conference, or a child inclusive conference?

These are conferences ordered by the court. Nothing said during this conference is confidential. The consultant will make recommendations to the court or advise the court if the parties were able to reach agreement on some of the issues in dispute. If it is a child inclusive conference, then the children will also be interviewed.

It is a short report and not as comprehensive as a Family Report outlined below. It is often ordered at the beginning of proceedings. The interviews for the report is usually conducted at the Family Court Registry in Newcastle, Sydney or registries in other major cities closest to where the children live. The family lawyer representing you is not able to attend the conference interview.

What is a family report?

This is a report ordered by the court where there is a parenting or child custody dispute. The family report is a more in-depth report than the report written after an 11F conference. The family report writer is usually a social worker or psychologist.

All parties, including stepparents and the children, are interviewed. Both of the parents and the children are observed together and the report writer will usually comment on the interaction.

Anything said during the family report interviews are not confidential. Any recommendation made by the family report writer is not binding on the Court. If your matter proceeds to a final hearing, then the family report writer will be cross-examined on any recommendations made by them.

This report is often done at the Family Court in Newcastle, Sydney or Family Courts in major cities closest to where the children live. The family lawyer representing you in the proceedings will not be able to attend with you for your interview.

A family report will usually make a recommendation about the parenting or a child custody dispute. In particular, it will make a recommendation about equal or sole parental responsibility and the time that the children should spend with each of the parents or other applicants. In some instances, reports can be neutral concluding that a child’s best interest will be equally well served by either of the application of the parties to the dispute.

Contact our office to discuss any questions you may have in relation to child custody or the living arrangements of your children. We can discuss with you how you can obtain consent orders, court orders or negotiate a parenting plan that will best meet the needs of your children.

Family Law

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