Parenting Orders

Whenever a couple spilt, and there are children involved, even if the breakup is somewhat acrimonious, the welfare of those children must be paramount. As your divorce lawyer at will tell you, a court can make a parenting order if the parents cannot agree, but there are ways to make parenting arrangements which do not always involve going to court.

The latter applies when there is a degree of civility between the parents, and they are able to agree to parent arrangements amicably. In this scenario, they simply agree to a parenting plan which they both commit to sticking to. Here there is no need to involve the court. but for this reason, this type of parenting plan is not legally enforceable.

The other way an agreement can be reached, and have greater legal status, is to apply to the court for a consent order. Here the agreement is reached between the two parents with regards to the children, but they give it legal status by applying to the court to formalise it.

In these circumstances, the court will not simply rubber-stamp it, even though an agreement has been reached. The court will also ensure that the agreement is appropriate, that the interests of the children are being met, and that the agreement is fair to both parties.

For example, if the court feels that the amount of time the absent parent has visitation is insufficient, or that the financial support provided for within the agreement is not appropriate, it can reject the application.

Ultimately, if the two parents, despite having their divorce lawyers negotiate on their behalf, cannot come to an agreement with regards their children, the matter will go to court so that a parenting order can be made.

Thankfully, the statistics show that 95% of parents manage to come to some level of agreement, without the need for the court to make an order imposing them.

Apart from disagreements, there are actually other circumstances when a parenting order may be issued. This includes a change in circumstances for either party that makes a new parenting order necessary.

Other circumstances include emergencies where children are at risk when violence or abuse has occurred, or when one partner takes the children to live in another state.

A parenting order generally covers aspects of the children’s welfare such as

  • Which parent the children will live with
  • Visitation times and length
  • How grandparents might be allowed to visit with their grandchildren
  • Which lines of communication between the children and the absent parent are allowed
  • Which lines of communication between the children and other relatives are allowed
  • How the parents will make major decisions which affect the welfare of children (e.g. schooling, health)
  • Relocation of the children

Although a parenting order directly and significantly affects them, children do not normally attend court, although they can be asked to do so. Even if not heard directly in the court, their views may still be expressed, either through a family report, or in certain circumstances, via an independent children’s lawyer.

Once a parenting order has been issued, it is the responsibility of both parents to ensure that its terms are adhered to. They must not do anything to prevent it from being implemented otherwise they risk the parenting order being adjusted against them, and ultimately, they could face a fine, community service or even imprisonment.