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All About Parenting Orders – Advice From Our Family Solicitors

What is a Parenting Order?

A Parenting Order is a formal document that outlines parenting arrangements when you have separated from your partner. It sets out care arrangements and parental responsibilities, which outlines who can be involved in major decisions for the children, such as medical and education decisions.

A Parenting Order is considered a “safety net” for those who may not agree on how to care for their children after separating.

You must apply for a Parenting Order through the courts or speak to a family solicitor to do so.

When can a Parenting Order be changed?

An order can be changed for two reasons.

  1. It can be changed if all parties agree on it. Those changes can be formalised by applying to the court for a new Parenting Order to overrule the existing one.
  2. The court can consider making changes if there is a material change in circumstances. 

What does a “material change in circumstances” mean?

 A “material change in circumstances” refers to a significant change that warrants the court to reopen the file and intervene in the Parenting Orders.

Parents who have made changes on their orders will have heard us explain the Rice & Asplund rule. The Rice & Asplund case is a leading case that provided groundwork for this requirement.

The rule states that you cannot revisit your orders in court simply because you have changed your mind. There must be a significant reason to replace the orders with new ones.

Examples of significant reasons can include, but are not limited to:

  • The children are exposed to risk factors, such as drug use, an unsafe environment, or living with someone with mental health issues.
  • The orders were only appropriate when the child was a certain age. For example, it is quite appropriate for a child to live primarily with one parent while they are a baby or toddler. As they get older, a parent may request that the order is changed so that they can see them more often.

A “material change in circumstances” is very much dependent on each case, which is why you should seek advice from a family solicitor to discuss whether your concerns meet the Rice & Asplund threshold.  

What are common pitfalls in parenting matters?

  1. One common pitfall is assuming that you can change your Parenting Order because you are “not happy” with it. When you obtain an order, it is finalised. The court will not reopen the matter on a whim. Again, orders can only be changed if both parties agree or if the circumstances meet the Rice & Asplund rule.
  2. Another common pitfall is not having your orders reviewed by a family solicitor before submitting it to the courts. This includes drafting errors and assuming that it is simple to edit orders. The Parenting Order must be prepared and drafted in a format that allows it to be easily enforced if there is a disagreement or confusion between parties.

If you need to apply for a Parenting Order, or you believe you meet the requirements for a “material change in circumstances,” speak to one of our trusted family solicitors at Matthew Love Family Lawyers. We provide a fixed fee service for drafting these documents. Our team works with you to provide strong, tailored advice so that you can make an informed decision that is best for your circumstances. Book your consultation HERE.