What are parenting orders?
Parenting orders are orders made by the Family Court about arrangements for children.
What types of things can parenting orders cover?
Parenting orders can deal with a variety of issues. Some examples of what parenting orders might deal with include:
- Where a child will live
- Who a child will spend time with, where and how often
- Who a child will communicate with, by what means and how often
- Who has parental responsibility for a child
- How parents are to communicate with each other about a child
- Where a child will go to school or who is to make that decision
- Whether a child can travel overseas or move away
Depending on your circumstances, you may ask the court to make parenting orders about very few issues or a large range of issues. A basic set of parenting orders would usually cover who a child lives with and spends time with and who has parental responsibility for the child. For more information, see How does the Family Court deal with a children’s case.
When asking the court to make parenting orders, you need to be quite specific to ensure that the orders could actually be enforced in the court. For example, it would be very difficult to enforce an order that said “the parents must not drink too much alcohol when the child is in their care” but it may be possible to have an order that said “the parents must not drink more than X standard drinks per day when the child is in their care”.
Does family law still use the words "custody", "access", "residence" and "contact"?
Custody, access, residence and contact are all words that used to be used in parenting orders, to describe how children were going to spend time with each parent and other people important in their lives.
From July 2006, the terms now used to describe children’s living arrangements are “lives with”, “spends time with” and “communicates with”.
How do I get parenting orders?
There are two main ways the court makes parenting orders:
- Consent orders - If you come to an agreement with the other parent, you can jointly ask the court to make orders based on this agreement, or
- Where you or the other parent has filed an application for parenting orders in the court, the court can make orders which it thinks are in your children's best interests. Interim orders can be made as your case progresses through the court, and final orders will be made either when you and the other person reach a final agreement or when the court makes a decision after a trial. For more information, see How does the Family Court deal with a children’s case.
If you ask the court to make parenting orders, the court will consider the best interests of the children as the most important consideration. For more information see Best interests of the child.
For information on how you might be able to reach an agreement with the other parent, see Family dispute resolution and Other ways to resolve a family law dispute.
You need to follow certain procedures before starting court proceedings to ask for parenting orders, which includes going to family dispute resolution (some exceptions apply). See Family dispute resolution, Before you go to court – children and How does the Family Court deal with a children’s case.
For information on how to start a parenting orders case in the Family Court, see the Parenting Orders Kit available on the Family Court of WA website or by calling the court registry on (08) 9224 8222 or 1800 199 228 (Country Areas Free Call) and requesting that a copy be sent to you.
You should seek legal advice before starting court proceedings.
How do I get parenting orders by consent?
It is possible to have your agreement with the other parent formalised in consent orders through the Family Court. Both parents need to sign the documents required to obtain consent orders, so you both must consent to your agreement being made into court orders. For more information about how to apply to the Family Court for consent orders, see the Consent Orders Kit available from the Family Court of WA website or by calling the court registry on (08) 9224 8222 or 1800 199 228 (Country Areas Free Call) and requesting that a copy be sent to you.
Can I get parenting orders if I am not a parent?
It is possible to get parenting orders if you are not a parent of a child. See Parenting orders – non parents.
Do I have to get parenting orders?
No, there is no legal requirement to get parenting orders. In some cases you will be able to make arrangements with the other parent without the need to make your arrangement into parenting orders. You might find that making a parenting plan or having informal arrangements which are not written down, work well for your family.
It is important to keep in mind that parenting orders are enforceable in the Family Court, which means the court can take action if an order is breached or broken. Parenting plans cannot be enforced in the same way through the court. For more information see Parenting plans.
What happens if I do not follow the parenting orders?
If you do not follow your parenting orders the other parent might file a contravention or enforcement application with the court saying that you have breached or broken the parenting orders.
Please see Parenting orders - breaches for more information.
What if the other parent does not follow the parenting orders?
See Parenting orders - breaches for more information.
You might also want to consider a form of dispute resolution that does not involve the court. See Family dispute resolution and Other ways to resolve a family law dispute for more information.
What if I want to change my parenting orders?
Parenting orders made on or after 1 July 2006 (for children of a marriage) or on or after 15 July 2006 (for children of a de facto relationship) can be varied with the agreement of both parents by making subsequent Parenting plans. Sometimes court orders specify that they cannot be altered by a parenting plan – in that case, you would need to file a form 11 Application for consent orders (available from the Family Court of WA) with the court to have the orders changed. If the other parent does not agree to the changes, you will need to file an application in the Family Court to have the orders changed. The court will only change the orders if it is satisfied there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original orders were made. You should seek legal advice if you want to change your parenting orders.
Where can I get more information?
- Go to the When Separating website. Here you will find short films about family law and other helpful information and links for families experiencing separation
Last reviewed: 22/10/2012