The arrangements which you make for your children must be in their best interests. This is the most important thing for the Court to consider when it makes a decision for children, either by consent or after a hearing.
Each case is different. But there are a number of factors to consider when deciding what is in a child’s best interests. These include:
- The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents and other significant people, such as grandparents;
- Any risk to a child of abuse or neglect from a person with whom they might live or spend time. If there is a risk to a child, the Court must give priority to protecting the child.
- The views of the child;
- The relationships of the child with each of his/her parents and other significant people and the impact on the child of any separation from those people;
- The capacity of the parents to meet the child’s physical and psychological needs;
- The attitudes each of the parents have to their responsibilities as a parent including their commitment to providing financial support for the child;
- The level of involvement each of the parents has had in making decisions for the child and spending time with the child;
- Cultural issues which might be relevant to the child; and
- Other factors which the Court considers might be relevant.
Will the children spend equal time with both of us?
There is no rule as to how much time children will spend with each of their parents.
If parents have equal shared parental responsibility for making decisions for a child, then a Court must consider whether spending equal time or substantial and significant time (meaning some time on weekends and some time on school days) would be in that child’s best interests and reasonably practicable.
Can I change my child’s school without telling his/her other parent?
Here we are talking about parental responsibility.
There is a presumption in the Family Law Act that people will have joint parental responsibility for decisions concerning their child’s long term care and welfare. This means that both parents are responsible for making decisions about where a child will live, where a child will go to school, what medical procedures a child should have and decisions around culture and religion. So there is an obligation to confer with the other parent about these kinds of decisions.
If you need Court Orders about the arrangements for your child, you can allocate various aspects of parental responsibility to one or other parent. So, for example, one parent might make decisions around education and the other about religion. In some cases, the Court will make an order for sole parental responsibility which means that one parent makes all the decisions for a child. This is usually in circumstances where there has been family violence which would make communication difficult, or where one parent has disengaged from their child. You can also have orders for equal shared parental responsibility (being the most common order) where both parents have a say in those important decisions for their child.