How does a parenting order affect the relevant parties?

Date: Aug 13, 2015

Seeking parenting orders from the Court is often an unavoidable step for parties who are unable to agree on the care arrangements of their child. In cases where mediation has not been successful and a disagreement over parenting arrangements has progressed to the courts, the orders will impose enforceable legal obligations on the involved parties.

Meeting these obligations then falls on those who are bound by the orders and strict compliance with them on an ongoing basis is crucial for the involved parties.

Complying with a parenting order

Parents are required to comply with all of the terms set out in the order. They must also facilitate any actions the child has to perform with respect to living or spending time or communicating with each of the parents.

For example, if the parenting order requires a child to spend a set amount of time with the father, the mother must facilitate such time by making the child available for such contact time.

Changing a parenting order

In some circumstances a parenting order may be varied or set aside.

If both parties agree on certain changes, they can enter into a parenting plan which will replace the order issued by the court. The parenting plan should be in writing and signed by both parties.

If one of the parties wishes to change parenting arrangements set out in the orders, there is also the option of applying for another parenting order through the court. The court has power to discharge, vary suspend or revive a parenting order, albeit in limited circumstances and only if it is in the best interests of the child. In considering whether a previously made order should be varied, the Court needs to be satisfied that there has been a significant change in the circumstances relating to the care of the child and then make the decision weighing up all the factors for and against the proposals of each party, having special regard to the best interests of the child. 

Regardless of the avenue taken, the parenting order will remain in force until a new parenting plan is drafted or the court makes a new order.

If one of the parties fail to comply with the obligations imposed by court orders, it is open to the other party to file an application with the court seeking enforcement of the orders and, possibly, penalties for a breach of the orders. The court will then consider whether there is a reasonable excuse behind the breach and whether any orders should be made penalising the party accused of such breach.

Parenting orders are a complicated aspect of family law, so it's important those involved seek legal advice early from a family lawyer. This can ensure they have the right information throughout the process of organising custody of a child, from initial mediation through to complying with any orders issued by the courts.