Parental responsibility and parenting orders

Each parent has parental responsibility for each of their child/ren until aged 18 years. Parental responsibility is not affected by changes in the parents' relationship; for example, if you separate or remarry.

Parental responsibility means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation their child/ren (see sections 61B to 61DB of the Family Law Act for details).

Courts make orders about parental responsibilities only if the parents cannot agree about the arrangements for their child/ren, these are called parenting orders. Courts can also approve and make consent orders to reflect an agreement reached between parties at any time during the court process.

For information about the law and courts’ responsibilities under the law, read the section on Parenting Cases – the best interests of a child Family Law Principles

Before you apply to a court

Before you can apply to the court for parenting orders, including those seeking to change an existing parenting order you will need to participate in pre-action procedures, including attending a Family Dispute Resolution Conference.

Resolving issues this way is less formal than going to court and should cost less in money, time and emotion. Since both parties are involved in shaping a solution, it improves the chances that an agreement will be long lasting.

If there is a history of family violence or child abuse, it may not be appropriate to attend family dispute resolution. Speak to staff at the family dispute resolution service about your options and the support services that are available.

For information on the pre-action procedures requirements, see the publications:

To find a family dispute resolution service provider in your local area, call the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or go to www.familyrelationships.gov.au.

The dispute resolution section also provides detailed information about the procedures and requirements for using dispute resolution services .

What are parenting orders and can I apply?

Parenting orders are a set of orders made by a court about parenting arrangements for a child. You or the other party may enter into a parenting plan or apply to court for consent orders. Before deciding if you would like to apply for orders, read the brochure, ‘Marriage, families and separation’.

A parenting order may deal with one or more of the following:

  • who the child/ren will live with
  • how much time the child/ren will spend with each parent and with other people, such as grandparents
  • the allocation of parental responsibility
  • how the child/ren will communicate with a parent they do not live with, or other people, and
  • any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child/ren.

What happens if a parenting order is breached?

For information about how an order is breached, the penalties and how to file that a breach has occurred, see the complying with orders about children section.