9 December 2010 Negotiating parenting arrangements after separation or divorce

By Annette Wilson, Special Counsel

In brief - Emotions can cloud judgement

The biggest mistake that people make when negotiating parenting arrangements is that they allow their own anger and hurt to cloud their judgment as to what parenting arrangements would be in the best interests of their children.

Best interests of the child

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) stipulates that the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration when deciding on any parenting orders. When considering this, in most cases, parents should consider an arrangement which promotes stability and regularity for the children and allows them to maintain a relationship with both parents.

Importance of children’s interests

In 2006 the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) was changed and one of the important changes was to strengthen the importance of children’s interests. It sets out clearly that children have a right to:

  • A meaningful relationship with both parents
  • Be protected from abuse, neglect and family violence
  • Receive adequate and proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential
  • Know and be cared for by both parents
  • Spend time with and communicate with both parents and any other significant people such as grandparents and other relatives
  • Receive the support and encouragement necessary to maintain a connection with their culture
Time with each parent

There is a misconception about the changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and the concepts of shared time and substantial and significant time. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) does not require that children spend the same amount of time with each parent. The important thing is that parents have an arrangement which promotes the best interests of their particular children, keeping in mind that each child is different. This may mean the same amount of time with each parent or something different.

Determining the child’s best interests

What will be in the best interests of a child would be determined by their personality, age, activities and health, amongst other things. Usually it is the parents who are best able to decide what the best parenting arrangements for their children are. To do this the parents must be able to look past their own needs and hurt feelings.

Additional information on negotiating parenting arrangements can be found on the website of the Family Law Courts.

For more information contact:

Annette Wilson, Partner  |  Phone: +61 2 9233 5544  |  Email:

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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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