Who Can Apply for a Parenting Order?
Given the prevalence of blended families and other less traditional (for want of a better term) family arrangements, the concept of a nuclear family in 2015 is at best blurred and, more likely, irrelevant. There is often confusion about how the Courts can assist in allowing a person to have a child live with them, spend time with them or otherwise seek a Parenting Order.
A Parenting Order is defined by the Family Law Act as an Order that deals with arrangements for a child. These include where a child is to live, the time a child is to spend with another person, allocation of parental responsibility, maintenance of a child and similar matters.
The more relevant question is who may apply for a Parenting Order. According to Section 65C of the Family Law Act, a Parenting Order can be applied for by a range of people including either of the child’s parents, the child itself, a grandparent or, most vaguely, any other person concerned with the child’s care, welfare or development.
That last category could include a sibling, an aunt or uncle, a cousin, someone a child has been living with (such as a family friend) or anyone else with a significant connection to the child. For example, a sibling who isn’t spending time with other siblings who are under the age of 18 (arising, normally, from a falling out between the older sibling and their parents) can bring an Application before the Court to seek to have a Court provide for them to spend time with their younger siblings.
Similarly, someone the child is living with (normally in circumstances where the parents are unable to care for a child) can seek an Order confirming that the child lives with them or otherwise, dealing with parental responsibilities. This is often important in arranging things like medical care for the child, enrolment in school or day care or otherwise making long-term decisions about the care of the child.
If a Court does propose to making a Parenting Order dealing with who a child should live with, or an Order that allocates parental responsibility to someone other than a parent, grandparent or relative of the child, then under Section 65G a Court will not make the Orders unless the parties have attended a conference with a Family Consultant (irrespective of whether they are by consent or not). The matter to be determined by the proposed Order is discussed during the conference to satisfy the Court that there are circumstances that make it appropriate to make that Order.
In summary, the powers that a Court has to make Orders for people other than the parents of a child are far reaching, but not simple.
If you would like any advice on implementing arrangements for a child in your care, or would like to spend more time with that child, and you are not the parent, please contact our Family Law Accredited Specialists: