Children’s Arrangements

Most parents usually speak about sole custody, joint custody, access and visitation. These terms were used pre-2007, but are not used in family law anymore. Though somewhat cumbersome in sentences, family law now uses the terms lives with and spends time with in relation to children’s living arrangements.

Philosophically, the change in terms shows a shift in perspective – from the child being an object that a parent could have custody or possession of, to the child’s experience being the central consideration.


You won’t find a single reference to parent’s rights, father’s rights or mother’s rights in the Family Law Act. Instead, it is children who have rights. Parents have responsibilities and obligations. Under the Family Law Act:

  • Your child has the right to know and be cared for by both parents, regardless of whether you are living together or not.
  • Your child has the right to spend regular time and have regular communication with both parents.
  • Your child has the right to enjoy his or her culture.


There is a presumption that both parents have equal shared parental responsibility for decisions concerning the major long term issues for their children, including where the children live, where they go to school, their religious upbringing, medical treatment, and changes to their name. In the absence of any domestic violence or child abuse, this presumption will apply.

This means that decisions about major long term issues are to be made jointly by both parents in consultation with each other – one parent can’t choose a school and announce to the other that this is how it’s going to be; neither parent can move the children far away from where the other parent lives.

Living arrangements

Equal shared parental responsibility does not mean equal time. There is no legal presumption that children are better off living with one parent or the other, and the child’s best interests are always the paramount consideration.

The shared parenting laws acknowledge that it is usually in a child’s best interests for both parents to having a meaningful involvement in the child’s lives. This meaningful involvement is usually promoted and maintained by regular time and communication.

Of course, every family is different, and different arrangements may be considered to be in your children’s best interests based on your particular circumstances.


Similarly to family law property matters, we aim to assist you to reach a quick, amicable and cost-effective outcome whenever possible. We try to work with your wants and needs, and also work very hard not to ‘de-rail’ the process.

No matter what the circumstances are, we will always ensure that we are in our client’s corner, and we are strong advocates for our clients.

Here at Samford Family Law, we will provide you with the advice relevant to you and your situation, along with the options and practical steps towards finalising your family law matter. We also aim to give well-rounded advice, often touching upon other areas of law whenever needed either by providing advice (if it’s within our expertise), or providing referrals within our trusted network to assist you to consider all aspects.

You have a number of options for formalising parenting arrangements for your children:

  • Informal, ad hoc. Parents who have low conflict and who can communicate together effectively often do not necessarily need to have anything in writing. This option usually works for parents who are able to talk with each other and resolve their day-to-day problems cooperatively.
  • A Parenting Plan is a written document that is signed by both parents. It usually describes where the children will live, how they will spend time and communicate with each parent, where the children will go to school, and details how decisions about the children will be made and how information about the children will be shared. This option usually works well for parents who are experiencing low/some conflict and wish to have something in writing to give some certainty. A Parenting Plan is not legally binding. Either parent can choose not to follow the Parenting Plan and the other parent cannot enforce it.
  • Consent Orders are made by a Registrar of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia ‘on the papers’, meaning that you don’t have to go to court in person. This option is often helpful for parents who are experiencing moderate conflict and who need the certainty of having legally binding and enforceable arrangements. Neither person needs to have a lawyer, but it is typical for at least one person to have a lawyer as the Minutes of Consent can be difficult for a non-lawyer to write correctly. The greater the level of conflict between the parents, the more specific the Minutes of Consent will need to be, to reduce the chance of a future dispute about the children’s arrangements.
  • Initiating Application in the Federal Circuit Court. You are essentially asking a judge to decide your case, based on the law. This option is usually seen where there is high conflict between the parents, where parents are simply unable to agree or where there is an urgent need for court intervention. This can be a lengthy and costly process. Because of the high costs involved, not only financially but also emotionally, this is typically seen as a last resort when there is no other feasible option.
"I can’t thank you enough for all of your help getting me through a difficult time"