First a bit of encouraging news: When we think of divorce proceedings and custody arrangements, it can be easy to fall prey to horror scenarios (we’ve all seen Kramer vs. Kramer after all).

The thought of long, ugly custody battles, unnecessary suffering for the children… as if ending a relationship wasn’t hard enough.

However, very few divorces and separations actually get that nasty. In fact, only 3% of Australian parents go through the court system to reach a childcare agreement post-separation. One in five sets of separating parents prefer to go with a family dispute resolution service or use their solicitors to finalise their custody arrangements; however, three out of five custody arrangements are simply agreed upon by the parents and then finalised during the separation or divorce settlement.

Mothers’ Rights vs. Fathers’ Rights – No longer a thing

The idea of one parent’s rights overruling the other’s is no longer really applicable. Since the Australian Family Law Act 1975 the most important concern when it comes to custody settlements is the best interests of the child/ren. As a rule, the Court believes that the child/ren have a right to a meaningful relationship and contact with both parents post separation. If a custody dispute ends up before the courts, the court will make decisions not based on the parents’ gender but on their ability to care for their child/ren.

There are a number of factors taken into consideration during this process:

  • Any history of domestic violence of either parent
  • How much a parent works; i.e. how much time they have to care for their children
  • Which parent’s accommodation is best suited to housing the children
  • Any history of alcohol and/or substance abuse of either parent

It is increasingly rare that children themselves are required to give evidence or statements in court, as the aim is to minimise any trauma associated with the separation/divorce process. However, once children are over the age of 13, they can demand to have their say in the proceedings and be part of the decision making process.

Parental Responsibility vs. Custody

Since 2006 Australian courts operate under the assumption of shared parental responsibility (Family Law Act (Shared Parental Responsibility) 2006); which means that each parent is responsible for the child’s welfare in equal parts.

However, this does not mean the child/ren will automatically be required to spend equal amounts of time with each parent. The physical custody agreement will still be worked out depending on each family’s individual circumstances.

Shared parental responsibility means both parents

  • Are responsible to make long-term decisions regarding the child/ren (i.e. which school they attend, their place of residence, medical treatment, religious education)
  • Are required to support the child/ren financially within their individual means
  • Are being held responsible for the child/ren’s physical and emotional welfare

Equal parental responsibility even applies in cases when one parent has very little physical contact with the child/ren; i.e. if they live in a different state or country. Big decisions regarding the children have to be made by both parents, unless the courts have awarded sole parental responsibility to one party.

Rights and Responsibilities

According to Australian Family Law, children have two main rights when it comes to separations and divorce. The first is the right to benefit from a meaningful relationship with both parents, and the second is the right to be protected from physical, emotional, mental and sexual harm.

The tenets override all other consideration in divorce proceedings and custody disputes.

Parental Rights

Parents’ rights are very similar. Each parent has the right to a meaningful relationship with their child/ren, in a capacity and context that works for the family. However, each parent also has the right to be protected from harm; which means that in cases involving domestic abuse, domestic violence or substance abuse, the court can withdraw one parent’s parental responsibility and prevent them from contact with their child/ren and former partner if they see fit.

Child Support Payments

In most separation/divorce cases, the shared parental responsibility is maintained; which means both parents are responsible for the child/ren’s welfare. This can take many shapes, as no two family’s are the same, however, it most often means that the parent with less physical custody is required to pay some form of child support to the parent caring for the child/ren the majority of the time. Child support payments are designed to help pay for essentials required by the child/ren and relieve financial stress on the primary carer, who is likely to be at a disadvantage when it comes to earning potential – basically, looking after the kids takes time and pays not-at-all, so whoever works more and makes more money has to chip in. The amounts of child support can vary dramatically, depending on the income of each parent.


If shared parental responsibility remains post separation, neither parent is allowed to relocate with the child without consent from their co-parent. This doesn’t mean you can’t move house within your general area, of course, but it does mean that interstate or overseas moves have to be discussed and agreed upon with your former partner. Each parent is entitled to veto a long-distance relocation if it would mean their contact with the child is severely diminished; however, very few disputes about relocation are brought before the courts.

If a parent relocates the child without their co-parent’s consent, the parent left behind can apply for Recovery Orders and demand the child be returned to accommodation closer to their own or be transferred into their custody. Again, this sounds dramatic and scary, but it is only necessary in extreme cases and very few families have to endure this sort of trauma.


The Family Law Act 1975 places considerable importance on children being able to maintain a significant relationship with their parents. However, it is important to consider that a balance must be reached between maintaining a relationship with both parents and protecting a child from any risk of harm.

Court supervised time achieves this balance in situations where the relationship between parent and child can be maintained in a safe environment with no risk of harm to the child. The court may order supervised time if:

  • The child is at risk of psychological or physical harm if they spend time with a parent who may be violent;
  • The child is at risk of sexual abuse; or
  • The parent’s behaviour is not in the best interests of the child, for example, if the parent has a significant addiction.

The child’s time with the parent can be supervised by family and friends, contact centres or private supervision organisations. The other parent cannot be the supervisor as this may cause conflict.

The role of any supervisor is to ensure parent and child are spending time together in an environment that is safe and has no risk of harm. Supervisors must monitor the interaction and conversations between a child and their parent and need to have a good understanding of what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, and when they need to intervene.

It is essential that court supervised time is relaxed and comfortable. Therefore, a trusted family member or friend should be chosen as the supervisor if that is what you want for your situation. Being a supervisor also requires a significant time commitment, so the individual you choose should be aware of this before accepting the responsibility.

Contact centres can offer you a supervision service at a discounted rate. If you wish to undertake court supervised time through contact centres, there is a likely chance you will be placed on a waiting list due to the high demand of the service.

Most contact centres will offer you indoor and outdoor spaces for the supervised time, including a range of games suitable to your child’s age. Contact centres will also offer services such as staggered arrival time between parents to reduce the risk of conflict arising.

Private supervision organisations are similar to contact centres; however, their fees are higher. They offer greater flexibility as well as more mobile services, which means that parents and children can spend time together outside of the premises of the supervision service provider.

If the other parent to your child has requested that your time with the child be supervised, it may not seem like the best outcome; however, court supervised time is often a great opportunity to rebuild a stronger relationship with your child, and is a better outcome than having no time with your child at all.

If you are struggling to consider the best needs for your child, No Lawyers’ Family Law Resources can help you understand how to proceed to achieve the best possible outcome for your family.

Separation can be made even more difficult if you and your ex-partner are from different faiths, and it can be confusing trying to understand what it means for your children after you separate.

There are more than 4,000 religions Australians may belong to, so this is not an uncommon issue.

You and your ex-partner may both want your children to follow your individual religions, which can cause conflict that can have a negative impact on your family, particularly the children who may experience confusion as to which religion they should follow.

This is a matter that the Family Court has struggled to settle in the past, however there are a number of factors considered when attempting to solve such cases.

  • The court will not be biased towards any particular religion when considering parental arrangements for the children.
  • The court will encourage a middle ground approach that allows both parents to educate their children on their individual religions, but the court will also have a hand in the final decision of which religion will be chosen if it is not in the child’s best interests to follow both parents’ faiths.
  • The court will then consider which of the two religions the child should learn and which should be discarded.
  • The court does not weigh up which religion has the higher value. Instead, they view religion as a lifestyle choice and consider which religion would facilitate a better lifestyle for the child. Whichever religion appears to be a better fit for the child’s best interests will be taken into account.
  • The court will also assess the extent to which each parent will attempt to educate their child on their chosen religion even if the decision has been made for the child to follow the other religion. If the decision has been made for the child to follow your ex-partner’s religion, it would not be in the child’s best interests for you to continue educating them on your own religion.
  • The court will not interfere with the parents’ right to continue following their chosen religion after the decision for the child is made.
  • The court also notes that some religions are exclusive. If your ex-partner’s religion was decided for you child, and your child is feeling excluded from you, the Family Court may order the child to be removed from your ex-partner’s care and thereby removed from your ex-partner’s religion.
  • If your child has already become attached to your religion, the court is unlikely to order that they switch to your ex-partner’s faith, as this drastic change would not be considered in the best interest of the child.
  • It is important to note however that once a child grows into an adult, they are free to decide for themselves which religion they wish to follow.

If you are struggling to decide what is best for your child, No Lawyers’ Family Law Resources can help you consider the best possible outcome of your situation.

With international travel hopefully not too far away, you and your ex-partner may want to start thinking about making arrangements for future holidays. One of the most important factors to consider is your child’s passport.

It is important that you understand the rights you have after separating from your partner, particularly when your child is involved. Obtaining a passport for your child works differently after you separate. This article will explain the process and your obligations as a parent post separation.

Parental responsibility is described by the Australian Passport Act 2005 as someone who is the child’s parent, lives with the child or has responsibility for the child, and has guardianship or custody of the child.

As outlined in The Australian Passport Act 2005, for a child to be issued with a passport, either the consent of both parents must be obtained or a State, Territory or Federal court has granted permission for the child to travel, live with or spend time with someone outside of Australia.

If you are worried that your ex-partner will attempt to apply for your child’s passport without your consent, you may want to apply for a Child Alert with the Australian Passport Office. A Child Alert requires the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to give special consideration to your child’s passport application. However, it is important to note that a Child Alert does not guarantee that your child will not be able to obtain a passport or travel overseas. You may also wish to seek a court order to prevent the issuing of your child’s passport, to make changes to the handling of your child’s passport if it is already issued, or to prevent your child from travelling overseas entirely.

On the other hand, if you are wanting to apply for your child’s passport and your ex-partner does not consent, there are also steps you can take. You can apply for a court order requiring your ex-partner’s consent for the passport. Your situation may also meet certain circumstances present in The Australian Passport Act 2005.

  • Your ex-partner who is non-consenting is missing, presumed dead or cannot give consent due to being medically incapable;
  • There is a family violence order made against your ex-partner;
  • No contact has been made with your ex-partner for a significant time period;
  • An order has been made under child welfare law that gives parental responsibility to the parent who is consenting rather than the parent who is non-consenting;
  • A family crisis has resulted in urgent need for the child to travel overseas; or
  • The welfare of the child would be drastically impacted if overseas travel was not allowed.

If you do meet any of these circumstances, you and your child may be able to travel overseas without the consent of your ex-partner. However, it is important to remember that court procedures can take time, so you should not book international travel until any issues present with your child’s passport have been fully resolved.

If you are concerned that an issue with your child’s passport may arise after separation, No Lawyers’ Family Law Resources can help you understand your rights and options moving forward.

Coparenting, in a nutshell, is the process of raising shared children after a divorce or separation. It is also one of the biggest challenges former partners face once their separation or divorce has become finalised.

Especially in the early days, when you might prefer to limit your contact with the ex to approximately nothing at all, having to be in constant communication and seeing them regularly can be hard. However, it is something that has to be done in order for both parties to establish a stable and productive coparenting relationship.

Coparenting can take many forms; every arrangement is different. The days of weekend dads are coming to an end and a lot of coparents choose to take more of a fair-share approach when it comes to time with the children.

Whatever arrangement works for your family depends on a myriad of factors; like living arrangements, employment status and work hours, the ages of the children, the school and childcare hours… the list goes on.

That said, there are some universal rules that can be applied to any coparenting relationship in order to make things run as smoothly as can reasonably be expected.


Doing it for the Kids

No matter how much you may loathe your former partner – and vice versa – this does not change the love you both have for your children – and vice versa. No matter what has happened to get your relationship to breaking point (unless there have been incidents of domestic violence and/or substance abuse issues), now is the time to put it firmly aside and commit to a civil coparenting relationship for the sake of the children. You don’t have to stay together for them, that would be insane, but you do have to keep it together for them.

No Trash Talking

You may not speak ill of your former partner in front of your children. You may not.
Once the kids are asleep or at their other parent’s house, you can vent to your friends to your heart’s content; but in front of the children you must maintain a positive, or at the very least neutral, tone when talking about your coparent. There is nothing worse for a child than having to question a parent’s fundamental goodness, so whatever ugliness has occurred between the adults is not kids’ business.


Commit to a respectful dialogue with your coparent. There’s no need to talk about anything other than the children, unless both of you feel the need to, and there is absolutely no point in getting into arguments. You both want the best for your kids, so you need to get on the same page with as little conflict as possible. If you feel a conversation is taking a turn towards unproductive anger, it’s perfectly fine to call a time-out and continue at a later time when you’ve both calmed down. This is hard enough for everyone as it is, there’s no sense in making it harder.

Be Organised

Family life is a juggling act and coparenting is no different. In order for this to work with minimal stress, it is vital for both parents to be organised and on top of everyone’s schedule. Both of you need to know about important dates and times; not just for the kids’ stuff (i.e. soccer practise, dance recitals, field trips, sleep overs, friends’ birthday parties), but also for the adult things (i.e. work travel, best mate’s wedding, health appointments). If both of you know what’s going on, you will be able to navigate through the everyday madness without having additional surprise challenges thrown in.

Be Flexible

Even the best plans and schedules sometimes get thrown off track by unforeseeable events. If your coparent comes down with gastro, has a death in the family or is called away for a work emergency, plans will have to change. Just like in any other family, no matter what its structure, you need to be able to roll with the punches to some extent. There is no point in getting overly resentful when your coparent asks you to help them out; a little give and take goes a long way to keep everyone as relaxed and happy as possible.


This is a tough one, considering your trust in your ex is probably rather shaken at the moment. That said, even though they might be a rubbish partner or spouse, they are probably still a very good and most committed parent. So, while you may not necessarily trust your former partner to look out for your best interests, you have to trust that they would never deliberately do anything to upset, harm or disadvantage your kids. Knowing that the children are well taken care of when they are with your coparents, gives you the freedom to enjoy your adult time – so you can welcome the kids back recharged and ready to go.

Take Your Time

This is a new situation for everyone. It’s bound to feel weird at first and there will be tears and tantrums and lots of feelings – for everyone, adults included. The best thing you can do it keep trying, re-negotiate when something is genuinely not working and maintain open communications. Also, you are allowed to cherish your kid-free time and use is as you see fit. If you want to be productive, clean your house, get lots of work done – that’s cool. If you’d rather go to the beach on your own, binge a series or – scandalous – go to an actual party and stay out late – that is also cool.


Every family has its struggles, no matter what its shape; so try not to worry too much when things aren’t running smoothly. You learned on the job when you first became parents and becoming coparents works the same. Stay calm and keep on trying.

Ending a relationship can be an emotionally draining experience for anyone, however if children are involved the process often becomes even more difficult.

Many couples believe that after they separate, their child will be able to choose who to live with when they reach a certain age. However, under the Family Law Act, there is not a particular age that a child can make these decisions.

While the child’s age is taken into consideration by the court when determining their living arrangements, there are 16 other factors that ultimately form a decision that will put the child’s best interests at the forefront.

The two main factors the court will consider are the child having a solid relationship with their parents and both parents being able to shield the child from harm. Where your child wants to live is therefore not one of the court’s primary considerations as this may not be in line with their best interests.

The court will however grant a certain weight to your child’s wishes, depending on their maturity level, understanding of the situation, and whether or not they have been influenced by a particular parent.

For example, if a child says they wish to stay with one parent because they are a better cook, the court will apply limited weight to this for the final decision. However, if a child wants to stay with one parent because their other parent is violent towards them, the court will consider this to be in the child’s best interests, which will influence the decision.

Your child can be evaluated by a family consultant or a court expert to determine these factors and provide a thorough report that will assist the court to understand what is in the child’s best interests based on their individual circumstances.

It is recommended that you attempt to organise parenting arrangements without requiring assistance from the court. No Lawyers’ Family Law Resources aim to assist you with this process and provide information necessary to guide you to a decision that will benefit you and your child.

However, if you have just undergone a separation and are struggling with your child’s wishes, you may wish to consult legal advice so you can be confident you are making the right decisions for you and your family.


Co-parenting is perhaps the biggest challenge couples face after separating; it is a minefield of emotions and can occasionally feel like an organisational nightmare, especially once children start school.

Suddenly, a routine centered largely around play and flexible pick-up times becomes a lot more rigid and there are many more things to remember. However, there is no situation that can’t be wrangled into submission with cooperation, and the handy hacks below.

Review your Schedule

Depending on your co-parenting arrangement prior to your kids going to school, you might have to make some small changes to make sure the transition is as stress-free as possible.

Mid-week change overs, where the kids move from one parent to the other during the work week, might throw out their school routine, so it might be wiser to re-schedule their moving day to the weekend.

Also, check out the dates for public holidays and term breaks to make sure both parents know when to take time off work.

Sync Your Calendars

No matter where the kids are staying any given day or week – depending on your co-parenting arrangement – both parents should have all school-related events penciled in their calendar.

Free dress day, excursion, school swimming, sports carnival, book week parade… the list of special events throughout the school year is endless and it’s easy to lose track.

By syncing your calendars, both parents are accountable, the kids don’t miss out on the highlights of the school year and everyone can relax.

Two of Everything

To avoid mad post-bedtime dashes to collect essential school stuff from your co-parent’s place, make sure both of you have (at least) one set of everything the kids might require during the school week.

Uniforms, swimmers, sports gear, lunchboxes – if you have a child in school, these items should be living at your house permanently, even if the kids don’t.

Inform your School

To ensure things run as smoothly as possible, it’s important for your kids’ school to know about your family situation and childcare arrangements.

They need to have both parents’ contact details and addresses; and they need to know who is responsible for the kids on any given day/week, so they know whom to contact if there is an emergency.

Yes, it can feel weird to explicitly lay out the details of your co-parenting to the folks at the school admin office, but try not to worry about it.

It’s in the children’s best interest – and you are hardly the first separated couple in the catchment.

Last – but not least – Communicate

Good communication is key if you want to co-parent successfully; and this becomes all the more important during the early school years when everyone is adjusting to this new chapter.

Being frank in your communications with your former partner won’t safeguard you against all conflict, but it will keep unpleasant surprises at bay and give everyone a sense of security.

You are still in it together, as far as the kids are concerned, so it’s important to be on the same page.

Yes, the start of the school year can be daunting – but don’t be scared. Remember, you’ve made it through 2020 in one piece; there is nothing the new year can throw at you, your former partner and your children that you can’t handle. You’ve got this.

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