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How final are Parenting Orders?

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By Sage Leslie

One of the ways that separated parents may seek to determine the care of their children is through Parenting Orders. Parenting Orders are made by the Court, either by consent or after a contested hearing, and are intended to set out the care arrangements for a child until they turn 18.

While these orders are Final Parenting Orders, the reality is that this doesn’t have to always be the case.

How can Final Parenting Orders be changed?

While Parenting Orders are made after consideration of the best interests of the child, changes to living arrangements, new relationships, the birth of younger siblings, or a now teenaged child expressing  a strong opinion about where they live can mean the parenting arrangements set out in the Orders need to be revisited.

If all parents agree to an arrangement that is different from what is set out in the Parenting Orders, then you can come to your own informal agreement. But if one parent doesn’t agree to the proposed changes, then the Orders need to be followed. If one parent wants to vary the Orders and the other parent doesn’t, then the parent seeking a change may have to make an application to the Court.

An application to vary final Parenting Orders isn’t straightforward. The Court is reluctant to change Orders that have been put in place unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the Orders were made.

The principle for a substantial change in circumstances was set out in Rice and Asplund, a 1979 Full Court decision that established a threshold test that must be overcome before a Court will consider substituting new Parenting Orders when final Parenting Orders are already in place. This can be a high bar to meet.

However, if your circumstances have changed and you believe this warrants revisiting your Parenting Orders, we recommend speaking with a lawyer. There may be other ways to reach an agreement, such as mediation.

DDCS Lawyers specialise in all aspects of family law and can advise you on shared parenting matters to help you reach the best outcomes for your children. If you need assistance, contact our team on (02) 6212 7600 to book a consultation.