Parenting After Separation: What to Consider

Article Kara Cook 18 July 2022

Separation is a difficult process for everyone.  When children are involved however, there are many additional factors to consider and parents need to focus on the best interests of the children when making any decisions or planning for the future.

What are the best interests of the children?

While every family and every child is different, any post-separation parenting arrangements should take the following into consideration:

  1. The need to protect a child from violence.
  2. The right of the child to know and be cared for by both parents.
  3. The right of the child to spend time with, and communicate with, both parents.

These basic rights of the child will then inform any decisions made concerning who the child will primarily live with, how much time they will spend with each parent, and how any important decisions regarding the child’s health, welfare and education will be made.

How to Handle Parenting Post-Separation

Coming to an amicable agreement with your former partner is usually the best way to handle parenting after a separation.  Unfortunately for some separated couples this can be difficult.

Some of the options available to help families navigate parenting post-separation include:

  • Parenting Plan

If you and your former partner or spouse can agree on co-parenting issues, then you can enter into a Parenting Plan.

A Parenting Plan allows you to determine your own arrangements for your family including where the child will live, when the other parent will see them, changeover arrangements and how the child will spend holidays etc.  The plan is developed and agreed jointly and you do not need to involve the Court. 

It is important to note that Parenting Plans are not enforceable by law. This can lead to potential problems if the relationship between the parents deteriorates or if there is a disagreement about a key issue for example if one parent wants to relocate.

  • Consent Orders

Consent Orders are a written agreement between the parents that is then approved by the Court.  The agreement can cover the same type of parenting arrangements as a Parenting Plan, as well as financial arrangements such as decisions regarding property and maintenance after separation.

Once approved by the Court, it has the same legal effect as if it had been made by a judicial officer after a Court hearing. Compliance with the Consent Orders are enforceable by law.

  • Parenting Order

When parents cannot agree on parenting arrangements and have exhausted all avenues for reaching an agreement themselves (including mediation or dispute resolution), a parent may file an application for Orders at Court.

In these instances, the Court will consider what it determines to be in the best interests of the children and then impose a Parenting Order on each party.  The order is legally binding and there will be consequences for non-compliance.

How can a family lawyer help?

An experienced family lawyer can work with you to achieve the best possible solution for your co-parenting arrangements after separation.  Whether you simply require advice concerning your rights and obligations, or you need help with reaching an agreement on a Parenting Plan or Consent Order, your family lawyer is able to guide you through every step of the process.

If you would like to discuss an issue concerning parenting arrangements post-separation, contact the experienced family law team at CDQ for advice on 02 8556 0130.