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Parenting Matters in Canberra

Parenting matters in Canberra are dealt with in the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court at the Nigel Bowen Commonwealth Law Courts at the corner of University Avenue and Childers Street. Parenting matters involve disputes about who has care of and legal responsibility for children. In parenting matters, courts make parenting orders setting out who the children live with, who they spend time with and who has parental responsibility for them.

When courts are making parenting arrangements, Australian family law requires the best interests of the children to be the paramount consideration. These matters are based on the children’s right to have a relationship with each of their parents. They are not about the parents’ rights.

Canberra parenting matters: parental pesponsibility

Parental responsibility is the term that the Australian family law system gives to what a lot of people think of as ‘custody.’ The person or persons with parental responsibility is legally responsible for the children and entitled to make major decisions about them – such as what school they go to, what religion they follow and any major medical treatments or procedures they receive.

There is a rebuttable presumption under the Family Law Act, that it is in the best interests of the child that the parents should have equal shared parental responsibility. This presumption does not apply in matters where a parent has engaged in abuse of the child or another child in the family or has perpetrated family violence. The presumption can be rebutted by putting forward evidence that equal shared parental responsibility is not in the child’s best interests.

Canberra parenting matters: live with/spend time with

Canberra parenting matters also involve decisions about who the children should live with and who they should spend time with (and how much time should be spent and under what curcumstances). Who the children live with and how much time they spend with a non-resident parent will be determined by the court according to the circumstances of the case and the evidence that has been adduced.  

In determining what is in the children’s best interests with respect to who they live with and who they spend time with court will take into account:

  • who the children have lived with previously;
  • the nature of their relationship with each of their parents;
  • where each parent lives;
  • where the children’s school is;
  • where the extended family lives;
  • the cultural needs of the children;
  • any other relevant circumstances.

Common orders in Canberra parenting matters

While the majority of Canberra parenting matters include an order for equal shared parental responsibility, there is a range of orders courts have the power to make with respect to who the children live with and spend time with. 

Canberra parenting matters commonly include the following parenting orders:

  • That the children live half the time with one parent and half the time with the other;
  • That the children live mainly with one parent but stay for specified periods with the other. For example, that the children live with the father but spend every second weekend and half the school holidays with the mother;
  • That the children live with one parent and regularly spend time with the other parent (without staying overnight).
  • That the children live with one parent and spend supervised time with the other. Supervised contact may occur at home with a family member, such as a grandparent supervising, or in a contact centre.

Where appropriate, a court may also make orders that the children spend regular time with other significant persons in their life. This generally occurs where there is a dispute between the parents as to whether such contact should occur or where the contact is important for cultural reasons.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

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