What are interim parenting orders and why are they important?

Interim parenting orders are exactly as they sound. They are enforceable court orders that codify parenting arrangements until final orders are made – whether by agreement between the parents or by judgment at a final hearing. Getting to final hearing, in some cases, can take as long as 3 years, so it is important to take the time to get interim arrangements right.

What is the court’s broad view?

The court’s guiding principle is the best interests of the child. This is basically setting a framework for the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents while minimising the chance for harm or neglect. The court’s view is detailed in a previous blog, found here.

What sort of interim parenting orders are generally made?

The orders can include:

(a)   who has responsibility for making decisions about the child’s health, education, welfare and other such important issues;

(b)   who the child lives with and how much and what type of time the child spends with the other parent;

(c)   the time a child is to spend with other people, such as grandparents, or preventing the child from being in the presence of certain people, such as new partners;

(d)   the frequency and type of communication the child has with a particular parent;

(e)   protective measures to make sure the child is protected from domestic violence or any other similar unacceptable risks; and

(f)   restraints from removing the child from the country, state or local area or, if necessary, having law enforcement officers recover and return the child.

The court can make orders it deems appropriate dealing with any aspect of the child’s care or parental responsibilities.

What needs to be done?

At an interim hearing, as opposed to a final hearing, courts will not make rulings on disputed facts because the evidence cannot be tested by cross examination. The court will make the interim orders based on the respective applications, affidavits, relevant reports and/or submissions made by yourself or your solicitor.

Given the lengthy delays experienced in the Family Law Courts at present, interim orders often remain in place for a long time and can sometimes have an impact upon the final orders that may be made by the court (because the effect of change is a relevant consideration under section 60CC(3)(d) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)).

For this reason, it is imperative that parents realise the importance of seeking interim parenting orders in appropriate circumstances and investing the proper time, care and effort into preparing and presenting the case well at the interim hearing.

The above is not intended as legal advice. You should obtain legal advice in relation to your own specific circumstances.

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