Parenting Orders – Obligation Consequences and Who Can Help


When two parents separate legally, the court will always issue a parenting order. As a parent, you will have to obey the terms and conditions of this order. However, with the passage of time, different things could happen to this order.

You or the other parent may violate some of its terms, relocation may make mandatory visits difficult, or you may need to reach an agreement to modify your parenting plans. That’s why you should keep reading to discover how to manage the issues that arise with parenting orders. You will also find out how to avoid getting penalised and how to apply for a new parenting plan as your circumstances change.

What is a Parenting Order?

In very simple terms, a parenting order is a court order that spells out the way parents must take care of a child. It could also apply also apply to grandparents. A parenting order must be obeyed by the people affected by it. You may have an order as a result of a mutual agreement between parties or the judge may give the order at the end of a trial, court hearing or divorce/separation suit.

Are parenting orders really important?

Yes, they are very important and they cover different aspects of a child’s care and parenting. The court makes them in the best interest of the Australian child. A parenting order may cover things like:

  • the person a child should live with
  • the role each parent must play to meet the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs
  • how often a parent can visit a child
  • the amount of time the child will spend with each parent and grandparents
  • the way a child should communicate with a parent who does not live with the child
  • how to resolve disputes that will arise as each parent tries to obey the order.

It’s vital to note that decisions about a child must be made jointly when both parents have equal parental responsibility. This is compulsory and it leads us to the other obligations that accompany parental orders.

What are your legal obligations?

If you don’t want to violate the court’s orders and end up in jail, just do everything the parenting order says. So what about just throwing your hands up in the air and saying, “I’m not bothered as long as I don’t stop my child from seeing his dad.”

No. It doesn’t work that way. You need to be actively involved in making sure that your child spend’s time with other party. Immediately, it’s time for a visit, make sure your child is available and explain the reason for the visit.

Also, if a parenting order requires that your child spends time or communicates with someone who has parental responsibility, you can’t send your kid out of Australia. Even if it’s for a short vacation in the U.S., don’t let your child travel without a court order and a written letter of consent from the one who is enjoying the benefits of the parenting order. If you violate the order and go on a trip abroad with your child, you could end up in jail for up to three years.

How can you change a parenting order?

When the circumstances of any of the parents changes or the needs of the child have changed due to growth, you may need to make a new parenting arrangement. But you can’t alter the terms of the parenting order without a formal change by the court. Even if you meet with the other party and you decide to mutually change the arrangement, the parenting order still stands.

The approved way to change the parenting order is to agree on a new parenting plan and re-open parenting proceedings. Then you can apply for a consent order that will alter the present order. If you need an urgent change in the order, and you are not getting a favourable response from the other party, apply for family dispute resolution. It will help you and the other party to resolve your disagreement. You will spend less money and time and you can avoid the stress associated with court processes. Of course, if you can’t  reach an agreement this way, you will need to file an application for court orders.

What happens when you violate a parenting order?

You can only be penalised for not complying with a court order, that remains unaltered by a new parenting plan. The court must receive a court application that claims that you refused to obey the court order. If all the court finds you guilty of disobeying the parenting order without any reasonable excuse, it can penalise you. The type of penalty you get will depend on how serious your offense was. Some of the penalties include:

  • Ordering you to be present at a post-separation parenting seminar
  • Asking you to make a compensation for the time the second party could not have with your child
  • Ask you to pay compensation for lost expenses of the other party
  • Command you pay a fine or serve a prison sentence.

How can you get help to resolve issues with parenting orders?

Always ask an experienced family lawyer for help before taking decisions on parenting orders. Your lawyer will provide explanations about your rights and responsibilities and explain how your should follow the parenting order. A lawyer may also assist you in creating a new parenting plan and settling disputes out of court. If you are on a tight budget and you can’t afford legal fees, you can visit a community legal centre or legal aid office.