Caring for children when you are not their parent

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    Children have the right to talk to and spend time with their parents and other people important to them including:

    • grandparents
    • uncles and aunts
    • other relatives
    • unrelated people who are important to them.

    Anyone important to the children's welfare can be included in a parenting plan, consent order or can apply to the court for a parenting order.

    The law encourages parents and other people interested in the children’s welfare to try and agree on arrangements for them. If they can’t reach an agreement, they may have to try family dispute resolution.

    If family dispute resolution doesn’t work, a person can apply to court for a parenting order.

    Parenting orders and consent orders are legally binding and there may be serious penalties if orders are breached.

    If your children are in someone else's care and you think they may be in danger, contact the police. It’s a matter for the police whether they take action. In an emergency, call 000. Get legal advice.

    Parenting orders

    You can apply for a parenting order for a child if you’re their parent, grandparent or any other person concerned with their welfare.

    When the court is making a parenting order the children’s best interests are the main consideration. This includes relationships with other people (eg grandparents or other relatives).

    Before applying for a parenting order, you must participate in family dispute resolution. There are some exceptions, for example, where there is (or a risk of) family violence or child abuse. See family dispute resolution for more information about exceptions.

    If you apply for a parenting order you may have a meeting with a family consultant to discuss your application before an order is made. This is to discuss the arrangements that you want and to help you understand the effects of the proposed order.

    See what the court considers when making a parenting order for information about family consultants.

    A parent applying for parenting orders can ask the court to include who the child will spend time with, like their grandparents, other relatives, or important people to them.

    If you’re not their parent and you want to apply for a parenting order, get legal advice.

    Culture and tradition

    If children are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, the court must also consider their right to enjoy their own culture, including spending time with other people from the same cultural background (eg grandparents, extended family and other people who are not biologically related).

    Ailan Kastom child rearing practice in Torres Strait Islander families

    Ailan Kastom child rearing practice is a culture practice followed by generations of Torres Strait Islander families raising children in supportive and loving extended families. Under Ailan Kastom child rearing practice a child’s biological (birth) parents may agree for another couple (the culture parents) within their extended family to permanently raise their biological child as the culture parent’s own.

    A new law called Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Act 2020 (Qld) allows Ailan Kastom child rearing practice to be legally recognised and establishes a process to do so. Under the law, a child or adult who has been raised under Ailan Kastom child rearing practice can now get their legal identity (eg their birth certificate, Medicare, and Centrelink records) to match their cultural identity. The person’s parentage is transferred from the birth parents to the cultural parents. They become a child of the cultural parents and the cultural parents become the parents of the person. You must apply for a cultural recognition order for a child or adult to get their Ailan Kastom child rearing practice legally recognised. Legal Aid Queensland and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) in Queensland can help you apply for a cultural recognition order. Call our  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Information Line on 1300 650 143 or ATSILS on 1800 012 255.

    Read our factsheet for more information.

    Parenting plans

    A parenting plan is a signed written agreement between parents setting out arrangements for the children’s care. It can include other people important to the children’s care, such as grandparents or other relatives. Both parents must participate in the parenting plan process.

    Consent orders

    A consent order is a written agreement (or parenting plan) made with the agreement of both parents and other people involved, and is approved by the court. It can include other people important to the children’s care, such as grandparents or other relatives. A consent order has the same legal force as other court orders. Both parents must be part of any consent order in relation to the children.

    Getting help

    If you’re a grandparent or an extended family member affected by family separation you can get information, advice or referrals from Legal Aid Queensland, a Family Relationship Centre or the Family Relationship Advice Line.

    Legal Aid Queensland or a Family Relationship Centre may provide family dispute resolution sessions to help you sort out arrangements.

    Acknowledgement—prepared using factsheets copyright to the Commonwealth of Australia and National Legal Aid.

    Do I need legal advice?

    You may need legal advice if:

    • you need a parenting order for a child when you’re not their parent
    • existing parenting orders or arrangements for children are not working
    • you’re considering participating in family dispute resolution to help sort out arrangements about a child.

    Get legal advice

    We may give legal advice on caring for children when you’re not their parent.

    The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

    Community legal centres—give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help.

    Queensland Law Society—can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

    Family Relationship Advice Line—gives information about the family law system in Australia.

    Who else can help?

    These organisations may be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.

    Family Relationship Centres—gives information, referrals, dispute resolution and advice on parenting after separation.

    Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia—deals with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are available online.

    Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.

    Last updated 31 January 2023