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Parenting

Whether you are separated, divorced, re-married, re-partnered or never lived together, as a parent, you have ongoing responsibilities for your children.

The law encourages parents and other people interested in the welfare of children to try to agree on arrangements for children. It is best if you and the other parent decide together what to do about your children. For example, agreeing on:

  • where the children will live, and who they will spend time with
  • how the children will be financially supported
  • how the children will maintain a relationship with both parents and other significant people, such as grandparents and extended family.

Australia's family law system helps people resolve the legal aspects of family relationship issues, including family relationship breakdown. It encourages people to agree on arrangements without going to court.

How you make these arrangement depends on whether you and your partner can come to an agreement.

If you agree on arrangements

If you agree on parenting arrangements, you can use parenting plans or consent orders to record your arrangements.

When negotiating arrangements for children, or asking the Court to make parenting orders, it is important to make sure that what you are asking for is workable and you are putting the interests of the children first.

Parenting plans

Parenting plans are written agreements signed by both parents which set out your agreed arrangements. A parenting agreement is not a legally enforceable agreement, and is not to be confused with a parenting order made by the Court where agreement cannot be reached. Parenting plans are relatively easy to make and to amend as your circumstances change.

Consent orders

consent order an agreement between you and the other party which is approved by the court and then made into a court order. A consent order is a legally enforceable agreement, and has the same status as other orders made by the court. Because you have already agreed to the orders, the process is much more simple and faster than if you ask the Court to decide what the orders should be.

If you can't agree on arrangements

If you can't agree on the parenting arrangements, the first step is to participate in family dispute resolution to help you resolve your issues.

If family dispute resolution does not work or is not appropriate, then you can apply for a parenting order from a family law court. The Family Law Act 1975 requires you to make a genuine effort come to an agreement through before applying.

You will need to include a certificate from an accredited family dispute resolution centre with the application, unless one of the exemptions applies, such as family violence, child abuse or urgency.

See the parenting orders page for more information.

Dispute resolution and counselling services

To find out more about dispute resolution and counselling services, visit the Family Relationships Online website or call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321.

The services can help you come to arrangements outside of the Court, and to meet the requirement to participate in family dispute resolution before applying for parenting orders.

The Family Relationship Advice Line provides information and advice on parenting arrangements after separation. Callers can also be referred to local services, such as Family Relationship Centres. Family Relationship Centres are a source of information and confidential assistance. The centres focus on enabling families to come to workable parenting arrangements outside the courts, and also offer services that can help to strengthen relationships and deal with relationship difficulties.

Best interests of the children

When making a parenting order (including parenting orders by consent), the Court's main concern is whether the proposed arrangements are in the best interests of the children.

The Courts will look at many different factors, including:

  • maintaining their relationships with important people in their lives.
  • protecting children from family violence and child abuse.

More information

If you agree on the parenting arrangements, you can find out more about parenting plans or consent orders.

If you disagree about the parenting arrangements, you need to attend family dispute resolution to help you come to an agreement, or become clearer on where you disagree. After that process, you can apply for a parenting order.


Last updated: 12-Oct-2017

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