Parenting arrangements after separation


After separation, there can be significant changes to your and the other parent’s circumstances. The “custody” (now called “parenting”) arrangements for your children will need to evolve to reflect these changed circumstances.

The law states that parents should – if it is safe to do so – try to reach agreement about children’s arrangements, and to put the children’s “best interests” first.

When considering what is in a child’s best interests, the law is clear that the highest priority is “the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence” (section 60CC(2)(b) of the Family Law Act)

Negotiating & documenting arrangements

If you and the other parent have an amicable (or at least cooperative) parenting arrangement and if there are no risk factors, it is generally acceptable for the arrangements to be kept fairly informal.

However, you might wish to document your children’s arrangements in a non-binding agreement or Parenting Plan. Whilst not enforceable in court, having the agreement in writing can be helpful for a number of reasons.

If you wish to make a binding agreement about parenting agreements, the only way to do so is to obtain Consent Orders of the court.

In terms of negotiating parenting arrangements, there are a number of options including:

  • Having direct discussions with the other parent
  • Attending Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) (a form of mediation) at a government funded service such as Relationships Australia or a Family Relationship Centre
  • Attending FDR with a private FDR practitioner – please feel free to Contact Us if you would like a referral to a private FDR practitioner 
  • Engaging lawyers to negotiate on your behalf 

In all cases, going to court is an option of last resort, or where there are significant issues of risk or urgency.

How we can help

If you have reached an agreement about parenting matters with the other party and wish to document it, we can assist you preparing a Parenting Plan or an Application for Consent Orders

If there is a dispute about child custody (“parenting arrangements”) or you just want to know where you stand, we can give you confidential advice about your situation and your options moving forward.

We can also represent you in negotiations. Usually, this occurs through letters, conferences, or mediation with the other parent or their lawyers.

We are a solutions-focused firm and resolve the vast majority of our cases without the need for court proceedings. However, if your matter is in court, we can also represent you in the proceedings.

Book a Free Introductory Call

In this free 15-minute call, we will confirm if we can assist with your case, answer any questions you have about our services, and discuss the next steps. This call is with David Gale, Director & Accredited Specialist in Family Law.