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Can you change Parenting Orders?

When parents separate one of the mainworries are future parenting arrangements of the children and this can often be a source of conflict between the parents.

Since the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 before any Court proceedings can be commenced, parents are required to participate in family counselling/mediation to discuss childrens matters to attempt to reach agreement for future parenting arrangements.  If no agreement can be reached then a parent can file an Application with the Court.

Once a final agreement and/or Court Orders are in place the Court regards the matter as finalised and parents are not allowed to re-apply to the Court unless there are “significant or exceptional changes in circumstances”.  The reason behind this is to prevent further litigation and to give certainty and stability to the children and the parents involved.

As we all know, however, particularly with young children, their needs are constantly changing and this requires a degree of flexibility between the parents.  Parent’s circumstances may also change from time to time as well, for example with the introduction of new partners, work, and housing arrangements.

In a recent appeal case in the Family Court, the father appealed Orders which allowed the mother to relovate the child’s residence to a place outside Sydney.  Earlier Consent Orders between the parents allowed the mother and child to relocated until the child reached school age at which point they were to relocate back to Sydney.

Twelve months after entering into the Consent Orders the mother applied to have them varied, however, this application was dismissed as there were “no change in circumstances”.  Four years later, the mother again applied to vary the Orders so she did not have to relocate back to Sydney.  In the end this Application was successful as the Court found that the child’s circumstances were fractured by in effect living in “three homes”.  The mother was also distressed about her accommodation and travel.

The Court concluded that although the original Consent Orders had been entered into voluntarily, they were made well before the children started school with little foresight about future financial and physical issues that could arise making compliance with the Orders difficult.

Although parenting issues can never really be finalised due to the ever changing needs of children, it is important to note that Final Orders or Agreements can only be reviewed by the Court where there has been a significant change in circumstances.

You should always get expert advice from an experienced Family Lawyer to know where you stand.

Should you have any enquiries then please call Kim Lawsonat Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699.

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