While the outcome of a relationship breakdown carries immense emotional burden on the parties involved, the children of your relationship/marriage may also be affected. It is critical that at the time of separation, the best interests of any child involved is considered, to achieve the best long-term outcome.

What you need to think about:

Decisions about your child and where the child lives

There is a presumption that both parents have equal shared parental responsibility, even after a separation. Parents who have equal shared parental responsibility have an obligation to consult with each other about major long term issues affecting their children. Major long term issues include matters relating to the children’s education, religion, health, and the name by which a child is known. In some circumstances, this presumption of equal shared parental responsibility may not apply, for example if there is evidence that a party of a relationship has engaged in family violence.

If the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility applies, the Court considers whether an equal time arrangement should apply, for example week about with each parent. The practicality of a child spending equal time with each parent is considered such as whether parties live in close proximity to each other. The child’s best interests are also considered.

The primary considerations of the Court in making orders in relation to children is the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm and the need for children to have meaningful relationship with both parents. Protecting a child from being exposed or subjected to physical or psychological harm is considered of utmost importance and is given priority over a child having a meaningful relationship with both parents.

Secondary considerations, such as the children’s wishes are also taken into account depending on their age and maturity levels.

Family Reports

If there are court proceedings on foot, a Family Report is often prepared by a Family Consultant which includes an assessment and recommendations about what is in the best interest of the children. The Family Report considers the issues in the case and includes recommendations as to parenting arrangements that will meet the children’s needs. Family Reports are ordered by the Court and many be court funded, unless privately arranged and funded.

The Family Consultant will interview the parents and children and observe the children with each of the parents if age appropriate. The Family Consultant will gather information about:

  • the issues in dispute;
  • past and present parenting arrangements;
  • the parenting capacity of each party;
  • the children’s relationships with significant people;
  • the children’s wishes and views, and
  • any risks to the children.

Child Support

Following separation, both parents may be responsible for providing financial support towards the costs of raising a child. Child support is based on an assessment undertaken by the Child Support Agency. The assessment is calculated taking into account numerous factors including the income of each of the parents, time spent with the children and the cost of raising a child.

The “cost” of raising a child also takes into consideration the following:

  • Each parent is treated as needing “self-support” income before child support is payable;
  • Older children cost more to support than younger children; and
  • The resident parent retains any Family Tax Benefits except where there is shared care (more than 35% of the care).

A Binding Child Support Agreement may be entered into by parents which provides for agreement on the amount of child support that one parent is to pay to the other. This amount may include the payment of other expenses including school fees and associated school and extra-curricular expenses and private health insurance. Our family law team can assist in drafting and formalising Binding Child Support Agreements.

Other considerations:

  • Parenting Plans
  • Parenting Orders

We offer a no cost 30 minute initial consultation to discuss your situation with an experienced family lawyer. The initial consultation provides an opportunity to gain an informed understanding of your matter and the necessary steps to achieve a resolution.

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