Parenting Plans

While you and your partner may have separated, you remain parents to your child or children. Like business partners, you are now parenting partners with a joint vested interest in the positive growth and development of your child.

The Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 deals with parenting issues. By establishing a Parenting Plan we can help you find a way to continue parenting your child, even though you are separated.

Under the new Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 (the Shared Parenting Act), parenting plans may be drawn up to arrange contact. A parenting plan must be made free from any threat, duress or coercion and be in the best interests of the child.

Why enter into a Parenting Plan?

Parents should consider entering into a Parenting Plan as:

  • it is a way of avoiding future conflict;
  • it is a way to deal with future consultations about children's issues;
  • it gives the child security, clarity, safety and certainty through knowing they have a set routine for contact;
  • ways for resolving future disputes can be included in the plan;
  • the process for changing the plan to take account of the changing needs or circumstances of the child or parties can be dealt with in the plan.

What can a Parenting Plan deal with?

Parenting Plans may deal with one or more of the following:

  1. The person or persons with whom a child is to live;
  2. The time a child is to spend with another person or persons;
  3. The allocation of parental responsibility for a child;
  4. Two or more persons are to share parental responsibility, the form of consultations those persons are to have with one another about decisions to be made in the exercise of that responsibility;
  5. Taking the child out of the State
  6. Relocation
  7. The communication a child is to have with another personother persons (ie telephone calls etc);
  8. Maintenance of a child;
  9. The process to be used for changing the plan toaccount of the changing needs or circumstances of the child or the parties to the plan;
  10. Any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child or any other aspect of parental responsibility for a child.

Parents can make Parenting Plans, as well as others, such as grandparents or other relatives of the child and in consultation with the children. How much time should a child spend with each parent?

  • Each case is individual however it is in the best interest of the child to spend substantial and significant timewith each parent.
  • It is in the best interest of the child if this time is a mix of weekend and school time.

What is substantial and significant time?

A child will have been taken to have spent substantial and significant time with a parent if (and only if):

  • The time the child spends with their parent falls on weekends and holidays; and
  • Days that do not fall on weekends or holidays.

This requirement has been put in place so that the time the child spends with their parent allows the parent to be involved in the child's daily routine and occasions and events of particular significance to the child, as well as the parent.

How will a Court determine what is in the best interests of the child?

The primary considerations are:

  1. The benefit to the child of having a meaningfulwith both of their parents; and
  2. The need to protect the child from physical orharm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.

Additional considerations include:

  1. Views expressed by the child;
  2. The nature of the relationship the child has with eachtheir parents, as well as other persons like grandparents etc;
  3. The willingness and ability of each of the child's parentsfacilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  4. The likely effect of any changes in the child's circumstances, including the likely effect on the childany separation from either of their parents or any other child or person the child has been living with;
  5. The practical difficulty and expense of a child spendingwith or communicating with the other parent;
  6. The capacity of each of the child's parents and anyperson to provide for the needs of the child, including emotional and intellectual needs;
  7. The maturity, sex, lifestyle and background of the childeither of their parents;
  8. If the child is of Aboriginal or Torres Straitbackground, the child's right to enjoy their culture and the likely impact of any proposed parenting order will have on that right;
  9. The attitude of the child;
  10. Any family violence;
  11. Any family violence order that applies to the child or a member of the child if it is a final order or the making of the order was contested by a person;
  12. Whether it would be preferable to make the order than would be least likely to lead to the institution of further proceedings in relation to the child;
  13. Any other factor or circumstance that is relevant.

What will the Court consider when making parenting orders?

Section 65DAB of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 requires the Court to have regard to the terms of the most recent parenting plan in relation to the child, when making a parenting order in relation to the child, if it is in the best interests of the child to do so.

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