What happens with children when their parents separate often varies considerably for each family. Ideally, the parents should make arrangements which allow the children to maintain a meaningful relationship with each parent and consult each other without involving the children in their disputes, but this is often not the case.

Before any Application for parenting orders, apart from Consent Orders, can be filed in the Family Law Courts, the parents are required to attend dispute resolution through a Family Relationship Centre or with a private Mediator, who will issue a Section 60I Certificate. There are exceptions to this requirement, including where there is domestic violence, risk of harm or urgency.

Parenting proceedings are brought under the Family Law Act 1975, which considers the children’s best interests with regard to Section 60CC of the Act in making a parenting order.

There is a presumption that both parents should have equal shared parental responsibility, which requires them to consult and try to agree before making decisions about major long term issues for their children, such as their education or where they live. The time which children spend with each parent can include shared care and equal time, but these arrangements are different for each family and every case is decided on its own facts.