Before the courts make a parenting order they always consider what is in the best interests of the child which involves the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents and the need to protect the child from harm or abuse, neglect or family violence. Parenting orders are different from parenting plans as parenting plans are totally voluntary whereas court orders are imposed by judicial officers of the court and reflect decisions or judgements made by them. Where it is alleged that another person has breached an order you may obtain legal advice, attend for disputes resolution or apply to the court.
There is now a resumption of equal shared parental responsibility unless there are issues which point to family violence or child abuse or where it would not be in the best interests of the child. Where the court finds that there is equal shared parental responsibility it must look to both parents sharing equal time with children and where this is not practicable then the option becomes substantial and significant time spent with any child. Where parents cannot agree then the best option is to apply for court orders. Sometimes this is the only way to deal with the dispute as it introduces certainty in these circumstances. Where a court order is made each person must follow it otherwise the court can compel a person to comply with the order. Orders can be changed or varied particularly where one party cannot reasonably comply with it. A parenting order in relation to a child may be applied for by:
>> Either or both the child’s parents; or
>> The child; or
>> A grandparent of the child; or any other person concerned with the care, welfare or development of the child.
Where a parent has an order that the child live or spend time with them and the child has been taken and not returned, then that parent needs to apply to the court for a recovery order. This allows the police, whether state or federal to find and return the child to the aggrieved parent. Where a parent does not have the benefit of such an order where the children live or spend time with that parent they need to apply to the court for such an order simultaneously with a recovery order.
A parenting order may deal with a wide variety of matters and it can be discharged, varied, suspended or revived either wholly or in part. In other words either party is given every reasonable opportunity to comply with it and where they breach or contravene it then enforcement may follow. Apart from this the court has the ability to penalise anyone for breaching a parenting order without reasonable excuse by imposing a penalty. Penalties vary from compliance or compensation to ordering imprisonment. Where a person has contravened a parenting order orders can be made for that person’s arrest if they do not attend court.
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