Child custody laws in Victoria
A key part of the role of a collaborative family lawyer is to help parents to negotiate arrangements for the ongoing care and support of their children following separation. The process of determining child care and support arrangements used to be referred to as child custody but is now more correctly referred to as parenting arrangements.
Under Victorian Law, parents of children under 18 are considered to have shared parental responsibility. This means that each parent has the right to spend time with and make decisions about the care of their child. This shared responsibility also extends to financial support of children. It should be noted that Family Law Act 1975 applies to all children and all relationships and therefore it doesn’t matter whether parents are married or have been in a de facto relationship.
Negotiating parenting arrangements
The Family Law Act 1975 states that children have a right to a meaningful relationship with each of their parents. Australian law encourages parents to negotiate their own arrangements for the shared care of their children and document this under a Parenting Plan.
If parents have already agreed such arrangements, a collaboratively trained family lawyer can create a formalised Parenting Plan that reflects the agreement made. It should be noted that this Parenting Plan is not legally binding but will be considered in the case that court intervention is required to resolve future disputes.
Should you wish the agreed parenting arrangements to be legally binding, you will need to apply to the court for what is known as consent orders.
Making a Parenting Plan
A Parenting Plan describes how children are to be cared for after the separation of their parents. The plan may include:
- The time to be spent with each parent
- Other people the child is to spend time with such as grand parents
- Where they are to go to school
- Agreements regarding medical, religious or cultural care
- Financial support
- How parents are to communicate with each other and reach agreement on day to day issues.
Financial support for children
A Parenting Plan will also describe the financial arrangements that parents have agreed for the ongoing chare of their children. The financial contribution that each parent is to make to the care of their child may be determined by:
- The agreed time that the children are to spend with each parent
- How much each parent earns
- How many children are involved and how old they are
- Whether either parent has children from other relationship(s)
What if parents can’t agree?
If parents cannot agree arrangements for their children’s care, they may firstly have to attend family dispute resolution. Should this not result in an outcome, then application can be made to the court for a parenting order. When considering parenting orders, the Court will always put the best interests of the child first. The order will determine factors such as shared care arrangements, financial contributions and where the child is to go to school.
At Umbrella Family Law we understand that the wellbeing of children is a prime concern when ending a relationship. We know your children are important to you.
Help us understand their needs and we will help you negotiate a child focused parenting plan or court orders.