Custody of children
Parents have responsibility to try to agree to the care arrangements for children following the breakdown of a relationship or marriage. Parents should decide with whom the children should live and the circumstances under which the children will spend time and communicate with the other parent.
The child’s best interests must be at the forefront of decisions made by parents and is the principle that directs the Court. Every child has a right to know and spend time with their parents and other people important to them, including extended family. The only exception to this right is if there is risk of abuse or harm, in which case, the outcome that best protects the child will be selected.
Where there are no parenting orders in place, both parents have parental responsibility for the children. Ideally, decisions are best made by both parents. They should consult the other before acting on long term issues affecting the children including about schooling, name changes, health decisions, religion and cultural expression.
In many instances, parents face complex disagreement about what is in the best interests of their children. There a range of options available to assist parents in reaching an agreement about how the children are raised and cared for. Negotiation, Mediation and Collaborative Practice are useful tools in these matters.