Australian Custody and Visitation Schedules
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
In 2006, the Australian Parliament passed the Family Law Amendment, or Shared Responsibility, Act 2006. These laws pertain to child custody and visitation. When you are familiar with these laws, you can create a child visitation schedule that is in compliance with these federal laws.
Australian courts are most concerned with a custody visitation schedule that best meets the child’s needs. There is no one-size-fits-all schedule for a family—the parents must work together to create a schedule that allows appropriate visitation with both parents.
The Family Law Amendment lists the areas that the court considers when making decisions on child custody and visitation schedules. These include the goal of the child developing meaningful relationships with both parents and to allow the parents to be involved in the child’s life despite living apart.
Creating your schedule with these factors in mind will allow you to create a child visitation schedule in accordance with the law and the expectations of the court. A family court in Australia is more likely to approve a custody schedule when it demonstrates that the child’s best interests are being met.
The Family Law Amendment defines "substantial and significant time" as its guideline for determining appropriate custody schedules. It includes exactly what the court considers when approving a custody schedule. If your schedule meets these requirements, it is more likely to be approved.
The Family Law Amendment (section 7) states:
7. The concept of substantial and significant time is defined in (65DAA) to mean:
(a) the time the child spends with the parent includes both:
(i) days that fall on weekends and holidays; and
(ii) days that do not fall on weekends and holidays; and
(b) the time the child spends with the parent allows the parent to be involved in:
(i) the child’s daily routine; and
(ii) occasions and events that are of particular significance to the child; and
(c) the time the child spends with the parent allows the child to be involved in occasions and events that are of special significance to the parent.
When creating your Australian visitation schedule, be sure to include important events and holidays in addition to regular weeks so that you, the other parent and your child will be able to spend time together under a variety of circumstances.
Australian courts prefer to award joint custody, both physical and legal, whenever possible in the hopes that the child will develop a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Australia’s Family Law Amendment Act emphasizes children having equal time with their parents, or, if not equal time, then substantial and significant time. The family courts in Australia feel that joint custody encourages parents to share responsibility for their child equally.
Joint custody is often considered to be in the child’s best interest, as long as there are no circumstances that place the child in danger, such as violence or other abuse.
In Australia, joint custody doesn’t mean equal time with both parents. Instead, it means that the parents will spend time with the child so that he or she can have frequent visits, generous contact and appropriate time together.
Sole custody in Australia still allows for frequent visitations with the non-custodial parent, unless the court finds that parent to be a danger to the child.
Whether you are creating a visitation schedule for joint or sole custody, remember that the court wants to see generous visitation times for both parents, as long as it is in the child’s best interest. The courts believe that it is in the child’s best interest to have plenty of shared parental responsibility.
When determining the joint custody arrangement that is best for the child, an Australian court must consider several factors.
Here are some of the areas that a judge will evaluate:
- If one parent will make a better custodian
- If the child will suffer psychologically or emotionally if removed from one parent
- If the parents are able to communicate civilly with each other
- If one parent has actively cared for the child more than the other parent
- If each parent can encourage the child’s relationship with the other
- If the custody schedule is appealing to the child’s wishes, if old enough to offer an opinion
- If each residence is in close proximity to the other
- If the child’s safety and security is at risk at either residence
- If there is any history of violence or abuse
Both parents should strive to work together to create a child custody schedule that benefits the child, rather than fight with each other over the child because of past hurts and hard feelings. Ultimately, the court's responsibility is to see that the child's needs are being met.
It is in everyone’s best interest for you and the other parent to work together on the custody schedule, because you know your child best of all. While the Australian courts can create a custody schedule if you and the other parent cannot agree, it prefers to have parents create the schedule.
Even if you and the other parent don’t get along well, you should try to put aside your differences for the sake of your child. A personalized visitation schedule will be tailored to your child’s individual needs, your own schedule and the other parent’s schedule.
When both of you assist in creating a schedule, everyone is more likely to follow it.
To protect your child’s interests and avoid having the court set up a visitation schedule for you, work with the other parent in creating parenting time that works for all of you.
As long as you can show that your schedule meets the requirements of the law and considers your child’s needs, it is likely to be approved.
The child visitation schedule should include three basic elements: the standard schedule, holidays and vacations
Standard schedule. This specifies what times and days your child will be with you or the other parent. It includes normal days with no special holidays or out of the ordinary events. It can include full days or even a few hours, depending on what works best for your child. It should be consistent, regular and repetitive.
Holidays. These special times force the standard schedule into exceptions, and they are important to include on your visitation calendar. Holidays and special occasions, such as a child’s birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day and so forth are times to create memories, celebrate traditions and have fun together.
Include holidays for the entire year so that everyone is on the same page about where the child will be and for how long. Most parents choose to rotate holidays on some kind of alternating schedule year to year.
Vacations. Whether these are breaks from school, set times during the summer or take place once in a while, vacations are also important to schedule in your custody calendar. Include known vacations right away, and as other vacations develop, let the other parent know as soon as possible so everyone can agree on when, where and for how long.