When a relationship breaks down and children are involved, one of the most crucial decisions parents need to make is how to share their parenting responsibilities. In Australia, the legal terms “custody” and “visitation” have been replaced with the concepts of “parental responsibility” and “parenting time,” which reflect a more child-focused approach to family law.
In this article, we will explore the key principles of custody and parenting time under Australian law and how you can make the most of your parenting time.
What Is Parenting Time?
Parenting time, also known as “access,” or “visitation” refers to the amount of time a child spends with each parent. The Family Law Act of 1975 establishes the principle that children have the right to spend time with both parents and that this should be facilitated in the best interests of the child.
Parents are encouraged to reach an agreement about custody and parenting time through negotiation or mediation. If parents are unable to agree, they may need to apply to the court for a parenting order.
Parenting Time Arrangements
Depending on the family’s circumstances, there are a variety of parental time arrangements that can be made. Typical arrangements include:
- Equal shared parenting: This is where the child spends equal time with both parents.
- Substantial and significant time: This is where the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents, but not necessarily equal time.
- Primary care: This is where one parent has the majority of the parenting time, and the other parent has regular access.
When making decisions regarding parental time, the court will always consider what is in the child’s best interests. This means that if there are concerns about the safety or welfare of the child, the court may limit or restrict access to one parent.
If parents are unable to concur on parenting arrangements, including the importance of parenting, they can seek assistance from a lawyer or mediator in family dispute resolution. These professionals can assist parents in communicating effectively and reaching an agreement that is in the child’s best interest.
If parents cannot reach an agreement through mediation, they may need to pursue court intervention.
How Can a Parent Make the Most Out of Parenting Time?
We encourage our clients to make the most of their parenting time as it is a great opportunity for them to build a strong and positive relationship with their children. Here are some tips on how you can make the most of your parenting time:
- Be present: Put away your phone and other distractions and focus on spending quality time with your children. Engage in activities that your children enjoy, such as playing games, reading books, or doing crafts together.
- Communicate: Take the time to talk to your children and listen to their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Show an interest in their lives, and ask them questions about their day, their hobbies, and their friends.
- Be consistent: Try to establish a routine for your parenting time, so that your children know what to expect and can look forward to spending time with you. Be reliable and punctual, and follow through on any commitments that you make to your children.
- Be positive: Use your parenting time to create positive experiences and memories with your children. Avoid criticising your co-parent or engaging in arguments or conflict in front of your children.
- Be flexible: While it’s important to establish a routine, it’s also important to be flexible and willing to make changes when necessary. Be open to trying new activities or adjusting your parenting schedule to accommodate your children’s needs.
- Take care of yourself: Parenting can be stressful, and it’s important to take care of yourself so that you can be the best parent possible. Make time for self-care activities, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with friends.
- Seek support: Parenting can be challenging, and it’s best to seek support when you need it. Reach out to family, friends, or a professional counsellor for guidance and support.
Making the most out of parenting time requires intention, effort, and a focus on creating positive experiences for your children. By being present, consistent, positive, and flexible, parents can strengthen their relationship with their children and provide them with a stable and supportive environment.
Director of Melbourne Family Lawyers, Hayder manages the practice and oversees the running of all of the files in the practice. Hayder has an astute eye for case strategy and running particularly complex matters in the family law system.