After separation, parents make arrangements for their children, generally by way of a handshake agreement. This is a great idea while the parents are 100% on the same page i.e. cooperative in every way about their children. 

But… inevitably, disagreements come up:

  • Where will the children go to school?
  • What extra-curricular activities will they be enrolled in?
  • Will they spend Christmas Day with me this year?
  • Will they play a musical instrument?
  • What day do the school holidays start on?  Is it the last day of school or the day after?

What do you do if there is no formal agreement in place and you cannot agree on a parenting matter?   

You could start by reading our article, ‘How can I resolve my family law matter without going to Court’ for the many options available to you in the first instance, before you consider making an application to the Court.  

We recommend clients try these forms of dispute resolution, starting with options which are quick, easy and simple:

  1. Parents talk about the question and consider solutions, and if that does not work then they…
  2. Write to each other with options; and if that does not work then they…
  3. Involve a skilled helper e.g. the grandmothers, their minister, a counsellor, a wise elder and if that does not work then they…
  4. Go to mediation, either a community mediator or a private mediator if time is short and if that does not work they…
  5. Seek advice from their solicitor, and if that does not work they…
  6. Go to Court. 

The Law:

Section 61C of the Family Law Act says that each parent has equal shared parental responsibility for children under the age of 18 years.  This means that parents need to make decisions about the long-term care, welfare and development of their children together. Parental responsibility under the Family Law Act means ‘all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to the children’.    

Shared parental responsibility relates to major long-term decisions such as education, non urgent medical procedures, the children’s religious upbringing, and where they should live, not to day-to-day decisions such as what the children eat for dinner.  The parent with whom the children are spending time with on any given day has sole responsibility for those types of day-to-day decisions.  

Generally, the Family Law Courts require parents to attend Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) prior to making an application to the Court for the determination of the dispute.  FDR may not be appropriate if there is a history of domestic violence or child abuse. The Family Courts make decisions, when parents cannot agree, based on the best interests of the children.  

If you would like assistance with a parenting matter, please phone us on 07 5458 9000 for a free chat with one of our solicitors.

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