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What is a “Parenting Order” and how does it differ from a “Parenting Plan”?

Parents Australian law encourages parents to come to a parenting arrangement or parenting plan on their own.  Many parents, however, are unable to come to an agreement and end up turning to the courts to resolve their parenting dispute.  The court may make a “parenting order”, telling the parents exactly what the parenting arrangement must be.   These may be orders which the parents consent or agree to (consent orders) or the order may be imposed on the parents following a trial or court hearing.  Finally, there are cases that combine parenting orders by consent along with a parenting plan created by the parents.

The primary question the court will ask is what is in the best interests of the children.  The court will look at many factors to decide what is in the child’s best interests, but the two main considerations are the benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents against the need to protect the child and the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm as a result of abuse, neglect or family violence.

Other factors the court might consider:  the child’s opinion, his or her relationship with each parent and other relatives, such as grandparents; the particular parent’s role in raising the child, each parent’s financial support, and the lifestyle of the parents.   But the law also allows a judge to consider any other fact or circumstance that the court thinks is relevant”, giving the court a good deal of discretion when giving a parenting order.

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