Applying for parenting orders

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    If you can’t reach an agreement about parenting arrangements for children outside of court or in family dispute resolution, you may need to apply to court for a parenting order.

    There are certain things that the court must consider when making court orders about children.

    If you’re applying to court for parenting orders, you should get legal advice.

    If your children are in someone else’s care and you think they are in danger, contact the police. In an emergency, call 000. Get legal advice.

    Preparing your case

    There are certain factors that the court must consider when making orders about children. These are set out in the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act).

    You should look up s 60CC of the Act and go through the factors that relate to your case. You need to bring these factors to the attention of the court. You can do this by preparing an affidavit.

    Other important sections of the Act to consider are:

    • Section 65C (who may apply for a parenting order)
    • Section 60CA (explains the best interests of the children)
    • Section 65C (who may apply for a parenting order)
    • Section 60CC (explains how the court determines the best interests of the children).

    Read these sections to prepare your case.

    When the court compares the Act to the relevant facts of each case, it must also consider other decisions made by judges. These decisions are called ‘case law’. Case law is used with the Act to make the decision in your family law case. It may be a good idea to do some research and try and find case law that has similar facts to your case.

    You can get case law from most law libraries or search the Federal Circuit and Family Law Court of Australia or Austlii websites.

    Types of parenting orders

    The court no longer makes ‘residence’, ‘contact’ and ‘specific issues’ orders but the same kinds of arrangements for children are included in what are now called parenting orders.

    Parents (including same-sex parents), grandparents and other relatives or anyone concerned about a child’s welfare can apply for parenting orders. They can also be included in parenting orders when it’s in the children’s best interests.

    In most cases, you now need to participate in family dispute resolution before you apply for a parenting order. You also need to do this before you apply to change a parenting order.

    Interim (short) orders

    An interim hearing is a short hearing where the court makes temporary orders while you are waiting for a final decision.

    Central Practice Direction: Family Law Case Management sets out information about the management of interim proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, including limits on the length of affidavits and the number of annexures of affidavits filed in interim proceedings. Read the Central Practice Direction for more information.

    At an interim hearing, the court will use the information you have filed to make a decision or interim order. Only in exceptional circumstances will the court hear evidence from you and your witnesses.

    Common applications for interim orders include:

    • children's matters that can’t wait until a final hearing or trial
    • urgent cases involving children (e.g. stopping a person from taking a child out of the country or finding a child who has been taken).

    If you believe your case is urgent, you can ask the court for an urgent hearing. Ask the registrar when you file your application. To do this, the first order on your application should read: ‘That this case be deemed urgent and that all times be abridged’.

    You need to explain why your case should be heard urgently. This is done in an affidavit. The Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia has affidavit forms you can use.

    Evatt List for vulnerable families

    The court places the most vulnerable families on a priority list called the Evatt List. These families receive specialised resources and support and priority court dates to minimise the risk of further trauma and harm.  

    The Evatt List is available in Brisbane, Cairns, Rockhampton and Townsville.

    Read more about the Evatt List.

    Family and expert reports

    In many cases involving children, the court asks a family consultant or other expert to prepare a family report. This report gives the court an independent view of the dispute and family relationships. It may include the child’s views. You may have to pay some or all of the cost of the report if this is ordered privately.

    Independent children’s lawyers

    An independent children’s lawyer may be appointed when a dispute is difficult or complicated.

    An independent children’s lawyer helps the court decide what arrangements are in the child’s best interests. You may have to pay some or all of their costs.

    Family consultants and family counsellors

    In children’s cases the court may appoint a family consultant. Family consultants are child and family specialists whose role is to advise people involved in family law cases.

    The court can ask for advice from family consultants and order you to see one. The court may ask the family consultant to prepare a family report for the court case. Anything said to a family consultant is not confidential and can be admitted (used) in court as evidence. The family consultant is sworn in as a witness during the court hearing.

    Counsellors or mediators who work outside of the court are called ‘family counsellors’. Anything said to a family counsellor is confidential, although there are some exceptions to this. For example, if the information given is about a child at risk of harm. Ask the family counsellor and family consultant to explain confidentiality to you.

    Will the court ask to speak to the children?

    The judge may ask to speak with the children. This doesn’t happen very often. The court may direct that the independent children’s lawyer and family consultant be there too, when the child meets the judicial officer. The family consultant may make a report about the meeting which will be used in the court case.


    Each party is generally responsible for paying their own costs. You may need to share some costs. For example, if there is an independent children’s lawyer or a family report you may be asked or ordered to contribute toward the cost. Sometimes the court may order that one party pay some or all of the other party’s costs. This doesn’t happen very often in children’s cases.

    Section 117 of the Act sets out the considerations where the court may order costs, because of a party’s conduct. These include failure to obey court orders or directions such as answering questions or giving documents to the court.

    If you are concerned about costs or are feeling pressured to settle to avoid costs, get legal advice.

    Acknowledgement - Prepared using fact sheets which are copyright to the Victoria Legal Aid.

    Do I need legal advice?

    You may need legal advice if you:

    • are applying to court for parenting orders
    • feeling pressured to settle to avoid costs
    • want to apply for orders about the care arrangements of your children
    • are responding to an application to court about a family law matter.

    How to get legal advice

    We may give legal advice about family law matters.

    The following organisations may also be able to give you legal advice.

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

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

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

    Who else can help?

    These organisations may also be able to help. They don’t give 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 accessible from their website.

    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 May 2024