Matters Pertaining to Children
- Last Updated on 08 May 2013
Parenting issues whether the parents are married or not are dealt with under the Family Law Act 2003.
Parents are encouraged to reach agreement on the welfare of their children. To reach agreement you can use the Court Counselling Service or counselling services offered in the country.
If you are happy with the agreement you have reached, you can formalize the agreement as a parenting plan or as a Consent Order registered with the Court. If you cannot agree, you can ask the Court to make Parenting Orders.
The Family Law Act 2003 provides for Parenting Plans.
A Parenting Plan is a written agreement between the parents of a child (and other people, if appropriate) which deals with any or all of the following matters:
- With whom the child should live.
- The contact each parent or other persons should have with the child.
- Schooling – where and who pays for education.
- Health, dental, eyes and medical treatment.
- Financial support for the child.
- Religious observance.
- Any other aspect of parental responsibility.
A Parenting Plan does not deal with property issues.
The Parenting Plan will be reviewed by the Court and if satisfied, the Plan will be registered. Parenting Plan may not be varied, but may be revoked by further agreement. The Court can set aside, discharge, vary, suspend or revive your registered parenting Plan.
Once registered, the Parenting Plan has the force of a Court Order.
Types of parenting orders
Parenting Orders can include residence, contact and specific issues Orders. You may have one or more of these orders depending on the needs of the child and your situation.
A Residence Order (formally known as Custody Order) determines with whom a child should live. If a person, who is not the biological parent of the child, applies for a Residence Order, the Court may ask the Court Counselling Service, the Social Welfare Department or some other counselling agency for a report, even if all parties agree to the arrangements. The Court may refer all parties to the Court Counselling Service, the Social Welfare Department or some other counselling agency to discuss all issues relating to residence and if the application is in the best interest of the child.
To have a continuing relationship with biological parents, grandparents or other significant people in their lives, a party or parties may apply for Contact Order. A Contact Order (formally Access Order) is an important right. The child has to continue important relationships whilst growing up. The Contact Order defines who the child can see and when he or she could see them. A Contact Order will only be made if the Court is satisfied that it would be in the best interests of the child.
Specific issues order
A Specific Issue Order covers the areas of parental responsibility not covered by Residence or Contact Orders. Specific Issues Orders are about issues which affect the day to day or long term care, welfare and development of the child. Specific Issues Order can include:
- Where the child will go to school
- Medical, dental and eye treatment
- Child’s religious upbringing
- Discipline issues
- Leisure activities eg. Sports
If no Specific Issues Orders are made, then both parents continue to have parental responsibility for the long term care, welfare and development of the child.
What is child maintenance?
Child maintenance for children under the age of 18 years are payments, in cash or in kind (e.g. food and/or clothing) or both in cash and in kind made by a parent or both parents (if the child is maintained by someone else) to help with costs for looking after the child. Step parents, in some case, may be ordered by the Court to pay child maintenance.
Children over the age of 18 years
The Family Court can make an order for maintenance to be paid for a child over the age of 18 years, if the Court is satisfied that maintenance is necessary for the child to complete his/her education or because of some mental or physical disability affecting the child.
How to apply for child maintenance
You can apply for child maintenance by filing Form 5 in the Court Registry in the area in which either parents reside.