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Children

Does it make a difference if we were not married?

No. The Family Law Act applies to all children of all relationships.

What is the best way to sort out arrangements for the children once we have separated?

If possible, try to come to an agreement with your former partner. If you can agree, then write this agreement down. This can form a ‘parenting plan’.

Legal Aid Queensland lawyers or our Family Dispute Resolution Service may be able to help. A Family Relationship Centre or other dispute resolution service can also help with parenting plans, but they cannot give you legal advice. See ‘Where to go for help’.

Can grandparents and other family be involved?

Extended family can play an important part in children’s lives. Where it is in the children’s best interests, grandparents and extended family can be included in family dispute resolution, parenting plans or court orders. Try to work it out with those involved. Get legal advice.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement, signed and dated by both parents, or people involved. A parenting plan should include:

  • where the children live
  • who the children spend time and communicate with
  • school or childcare
  • medical issues
  • religious or cultural practices
  • financial support for the children
  • how parental responsibility is to be shared
  • how disagreements about parenting arrangements will be sorted out
  • how those with parental responsibility will communicate with each other.

It is best to get legal help if you have children under 18 years.

Do I need to go to court?

If you can agree, you do not need to go to court. If you want the agreement to be legally enforceable you can apply to the court for orders by agreement. These are called consent orders.

The family law system encourages people to try to agree, if they can. Family dispute resolution can be cheaper than going to court, and more flexible. You can still get legal help. See ‘Family dispute resolution’.

What if there is no agreement?

If there is no agreement, you can apply to the court for a parenting order. You will have to go to family dispute resolution before you apply for a parenting order. There are some exceptions to this. See ‘Family dispute resolution’.

A parenting order can say where the children live, who they have contact with and other issues such as where they will go to school. The court’s main concern is for the children. The court will decide what is in the children’s best interests and will consider the children’s views. You will have to go to a court hearing.

Parents (including same-sex parents), grandparents or anyone concerned about a child’s welfare can negotiate parenting plans or apply for parenting orders.

Do the children have to spend equal amounts of time with each parent?

The law says parents have equal shared parental responsibility for their children unless the court orders otherwise. This does not mean children have to spend equal amounts of time with each parent although the court must consider this.

Think about what arrangements are in the children's best interests and what is reasonably practical. That may be equal time, substantial and significant time (which includes weekdays, weekends, holidays and special events) or some other amount of time.

It is best to think about the quality of care, providing a settled environment and working towards a plan where both parents feel satisfied the children’s needs are being met. Every child has different needs.

You can get more detailed information about children and family law at www.legalaid.qld.gov.au

Who has to financially support the children?

Every parent has a financial duty to support their children. The amount to be paid depends on:

  • the income of each parent
  • the amount of time each parent spends with the children
  • the number and ages of children involved
  • if either parent has a second family or families.

There are other factors which may affect your child support. It is important you get legal advice about how the law might affect you. Same-sex parents can also apply for child support.

You can get more detailed information about child support at www.legalaid.qld.gov.au

What if my children do not want to visit their other parent?

This will depend on the children’s ages and if there are court orders about spending time with the parent. If the children refuse to visit, you still have a duty to encourage them as this is seen to be in their best interests.

If you believe spending time with the other parent puts the children at serious risk of physical or psychological harm get legal help quickly. The police and other authorities may also need to be told.

What if court orders for parenting time are not being followed?

If the order is for you to spend time or communicate with the children and the children are being stopped from doing this, then the order is being broken. You should get legal advice about what you can do. If the children live with you and the other parent does not turn up to spend time with the children, you cannot make the other parent do this.

Get legal help to make sure court orders are being followed, or if you want to change an order.

What if the arrangements are not working?

Over time things change and arrangements may need to be worked out differently. It is best to talk about this with the other parent and try to sort it out. If there are court orders these will still apply, even if your situation has changed.

Get legal help. Legal Aid Queensland lawyers or our Family Dispute Resolution Service may be able to help you work out a new arrangement. A Family Relationship Centre or other dispute resolution service can also help, but they cannot give you legal advice.

Can I take my children interstate or out of the country?

Try to get written permission from the other parent. You may need this to apply for a passport for the children. Whether you get permission may depend on if you are simply travelling or planning to move (relocate). If you cannot get permission you may need to get a court order.

The law says children have a right to a relationship with both parents, and other important people in their lives. Moving a long distance away or interstate or overseas will affect these relationships.

If there are parenting orders, get legal help before doing anything that may break them. The court can make location and recovery orders to find and return children.

What if children are not returned after seeing their other parent?

Even if there are no court orders you can still apply to the court to have the children returned. If there is an order that the children live with you, this does not mean the police automatically have the power to return them to you. You may need to get a court order to have them returned.

Get urgent legal help if you think the other parent may take your children out of the country without your permission (abduction). You can take out orders to stop this happening. The courts have a 24 hour telephone number for these situations. Act quickly. If you have parenting orders call the Australian Federal Police or your local police station. See ‘Where to go for help’.

You can get detailed information about children and family law on our website www.legalaid.qld.gov.au. You can also call Legal Aid Queensland to order publications on 1300 65 11 88.

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