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Parenting Arrangements & Child Custody

The arrangements for your children are always at the forefront of your mind as a separating parent. Most people are familiar with the terms ‘child custody’ and ‘access’ (or ‘visitation’). In Family Law, those terms aren’t used any more. Instead, you’ll hear other terms such as ‘lives with’, ‘spends time with’, ‘sole parental responsibility’ or ‘equal shared parental responsibility’.

If you have concerns about the safety and welfare of your child, jump here.

If you are looking for information specific to child custody or changes to existing parenting agreements, click here.

If you are looking for insight specific to where you might be in the process, or might want to be, take a look at our overview.

Where are you right now?

Click the section below that applies to your current situation.


Looking for something else?

Can I change or update my parenting arrangements? Click here
What are my rights as a parent? Click here
Does the system favour women/mothers? Click here


We Have An Informal Agreement.
What Next?

Sometimes, parents are able to reach agreement in relation to the arrangements for their children and don’t see a need for a parenting Order or even a parenting plan. The problem is, things work well until they don’t and if communication breaks down or one party changes their mind, there’s little you can do without an Order to fall back on.

We can help you and your co-parent draft a parenting agreement that works for each of you while prioritising the needs of your children. A carefully considered and well drafted agreement can help parents avoid future conflict, confusion and disagreement, and children cope with the many changes that occur when their parents are not in a relationship or living under the one roof.

There is great comfort in having a formal parenting arrangement in place as this provides you and your children with a level of certainty moving forward. You can make decisions for your future knowing the arrangements for your children are ‘locked in’. That said, we know that things can change as children grow older and we can help you draft a parenting agreement that will work for you and your children now, but also have provision for the arrangements to be reviewed as your children get older.

What Details Should Be Included In My Parenting Arrangements?

Parenting arrangements can encompass a number of details, including:

  • Who the children will live with;
  • How much time they will spend with the other parent;
  • Where the children will spend birthdays, Christmas, Easter and other special days;
  • How often and in what format the children will communicate with both of their parents (i.e. telephone, Facetime, etc); and
  • How the children will move between households (we call this ‘changeover’).

You and your co-parent can work together to develop a parenting plan that works in your circumstances and the needs of your children.


What Is The Best Way To Formally Document Our Parenting Arrangement?

When you have an agreement or you are reviewing your existing arrangements, it is important to decide how you want your agreement formally documented. We are able to review your circumstances with you and advise you on whether a Parenting Order or a Parenting Plan is best for you and your children.

Option 1: Parenting Order

A parenting Order is a Court Order that is legally binding and enforceable. If a party breaches or fails to comply with a parenting Order, the Court can impose various sanctions.

Option 2: Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a document that outlines the parties’ agreement in relation to the arrangements for their children. As it is not a court Order, it is not legally binding and cannot be enforced by the Court. Reach out to our experienced team of family lawyers to formalise your parenting arrangements or parenting plan.


If you have previously entered into a parenting plan and the arrangements just aren’t working for your children, it is possible to enter into a new parenting plan. This is often done via mediation.

Changing a parenting Order is a little more difficult, as that Order is intended to remain in place until the children turn 18. In certain circumstances, the Court understands that changes may be required and there is a process to facilitate that. It’s not easy though, which is why we recommend speaking with our experienced team before you sign anything.

Want to apply for a variation to your Parenting Agreement? Want advice to learn about what’s possible? We can help. To meet with one of our experts and find out if what you want to see happen with your children is possible, book a time here.


If your child is at immediate risk of physical harm, abuse, abduction or violence, it is vital that you call 000 and then contact our office for an urgent consultation.

While it is assumed that it is important for a child to have a relationship with both parents, in some circumstances, that may not be in the child’s best interest. If you have any concerns in this regard, contact our office for advice specific to your situation. 

If you are fearful that your child may be detained, taken, or otherwise withheld from you by the other parent, please contact our office immediately. 

If you are concerned about your child’s welfare and wellbeing when they are not in your direct care and supervision, there are options available to you in minimising the risk of harm. It is best that you meet with one of our qualified team members to discuss your options as to how to protect your child. 


What Are My Rights As A Parent?

In family law, children have rights and parents have responsibilities. Children have a right to know and be cared for by both of their parents and to spend time with their parents and other significant people. Provided they’re safe, of course. Protecting children from harm is the overarching purpose of the family law system.
When developing a parenting arrangement, it can often be difficult to accept that you are no longer going to see your child everyday or have access to your children whenever you want. You do not automatically have the right to simply do whatever you want with your children – it is a lot more complicated than that. This can be hard for you and your child to grapple with, so it is important that you establish parenting arrangements that give you, your co-parent and your children a clear routine. It is much easier to move forward with everyone on the same page with the welfare of the children at the heart of any parenting arrangements. 

Does The System Favour Women?

A common misconception is that the family law system favours women. This is not the case.

The Court’s primary concern is ensuring that the parenting arrangements put in place are in the children’s best interests. Depending on the circumstances of the case, that might mean living with Mum, Dad, grandparents or another person who has played a significant role in the children’s lives.

The system is there to ensure that children are safe and have the benefit of both of their parents having meaningful involvement in their lives. To answer the question, no, the system doesn’t favour women. It favours children.

Want to change the terms of your Parenting Agreement? We can help.


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