Child Custody in Victoria: How Does the Court Decide?

a parent holds the hand of a small child

How custody works depends on a variety of factors, especially if the court makes a parenting order.  Today, you rarely hear the term ‘custody’ in court. Instead, you are more likely to hear about “parenting arrangements” and “child contact”. Below, the lawyers at Melbourne Law Studio look at when and how the court decides on child custody arrangements in Victoria.

Basic Principles – Child Custody Laws Victoria

Under child custody laws, Victoria based parents start with the principle of having equal shared parental responsibility. The courts assume this is in your child’s best interest unless you can prove otherwise. “Legal custody” is assumed to apply to both parents until either a parenting plan is agreed upon or a parenting order is made by the court.

Parenting Plan vs Parenting Order

A child custody agreement or parenting plan is a written agreement between parents, covering things like who the child lives with and how they spend time with the other parent. They are typically not legally enforceable and function as a reference for parents on what arrangements have been agreed upon.

A parenting order is a court order that may be used if parents can’t come to an agreement or if there is the potential for physical or physiological harm. Other times, parents may apply for a court order to make an existing custody agreement legally enforceable. It’s best to seek legal advice from a family lawyer if you’re considering applying for a parenting order.

How the Court Decides

If a parent applies for a parenting order, the court’s most important considerations will be:

  • The benefit to children of having a relationship with both parents
  • Protecting the children, including preventing them from witnessing or experiencing family violence, neglect, or being physically or psychologically harmed

If these two considerations conflict, then the latter is given greater weight. The court will also take the specific circumstances into account. This includes everything from extended family dynamics to the financial and practical limitations of certain arrangements.

Child Custody Lawyers Melbourne

For child custody lawyers Melbourne and Victoria based parents can count on, visit the family lawyers at Melbourne Law Studio. We can help mediate disputes and guide you through how custody works and the process of determining ideal custody arrangements. Call us today on 03 9021 1421 or contact us online.

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