Divorce is one of the most stressful life events a person can go through and it only grows more fraught when it’s time to discuss parental responsibility. It doesn’t have to be that way with parenting arrangements. Once you apply to the court to discuss child custody and child support, you will go through compulsory family dispute resolution. That is if you can’t come to an agreement regarding child custody on your own.

The most difficult part of family meditation is putting aside the hurt and pain of a broken relationship to focus on the interests of the child. It became clear to me early on that the best balance for us was to pursue joint custody arrangements. We made our child together so it only made sense to share parental responsibility fully and evenly. I won’t pretend it was easy, we had to put aside our feelings for each other and create a parenting plan that worked for our child and for both of us, too. The family law act ensures that any parenting orders issued by the court are in the best interests of the child/ren.

Parenting Arrangements

Parenting orders deal with how much time child/ren spend with each of their parents, as well as grandparents, where they will live, how parental responsibility will be allocated, and how the child/ren will maintain communication with the parent they do not live with. It will also detail all aspects of development, welfare, and care. 

Parental responsibility applies unless a court determines it’s in the best interest of the child/ren to remove that responsibility from one (or both) parents. Otherwise, both parents have equal shared parental responsibility. This simply means that both parents are responsible in terms of making long-term decisions about health, religious observance, school, and other welfare issues.

However, it isn’t the same as parenting time. Family law court no longer uses terms like contact or custody arrangements, now arrangements for children are referred to as parenting time. Generally, parents will come to an agreement that works for them and the child/ren. 

Child Custody Options 

There are two choices in terms of parenting arrangements. They are both designed to create a custody schedule and terms around parenting. The difference is orders are legally binding and enforceable and plans are not. 

  • Parenting Plan

If a split is amicable, a plan is ideal. They’re a useful guide for freshly separated parents who want to ensure their children have structure. The parents create a plan together and agree on terms. It will detail where the child/ren live, who they will spend time with and when, and while it doesn’t make new legal obligations it can certainly relieve one party from the existing obligations under a separate parenting order. 

  • Parenting Order

This is the solution for people looking to address specific behaviours like whether overseas holidays are acceptable or who will pick the child/ren up from soccer practice and school. It can also prohibit certain behaviour, such as making disparaging comments to the child/ren about the other parent. It can also address family violence issues. It’s rare for someone to pursue full custody and walk away with it, the family law courts may act in the case of family violence, but custody agreements typically aim to find balance. In the case of family dispute resolution, the family relationship centre mediator will work with both parents to find a fair custody schedule.

Our Choice

We love our children and we were able to put everything else aside to make the right parenting plan. It relieved a lot of the stress around our divorce to focus solely on the children and realise that no matter what has gone on between us, we are both equally invested in raising our children. While for some a parenting plan might mean 75/25 or 60/40, for us 50/50 was the only thing that made sense.