Family law
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What is a consent order?

In Australian family law, parties can make written agreements about things such as parenting arrangements, property and spousal maintenance. An agreement on its own isn’t enforceable under family law. These agreements are enforced by one party taking legal action for breach of orders.

Parties can apply to the Family Court of Australia (FCA) to make consent orders based on their written agreements. These orders are known as consent orders because both parties consent to the court making the orders.

Consent orders are enforceable under Australian family law. Because the FCA can enforce any breaches, consent orders offer extra protection and peace of mind to the parties.

What is a consent order for children?

Parties can apply for consent orders for children, usually through the parenting plan process.

If you’re separating or divorcing, you can make a written parenting plan that sets out the parenting arrangements that you’ve made for your children.

You can apply to the court to make consent orders based on the parenting plan. They become parenting orders and are enforceable under Australian family law. There are usually penalties for breaching a consent order.

It’s not only parents who can apply for parenting consent orders. Anyone concerned with the care, welfare and development of a child can apply, provided that the other party consents. For example, grandparents may apply.

If one party refuses consent, parenting orders may be the answer. We’ll chat to you about your options and give you a free evaluation at your first consultation. Get in touch to find out more.  

If you’re seeking orders by consent, it’s not necessary to go to court. We can do that for you. We’ll talk you through the process.

What type of children’s issues can be the subject of a consent order?

A court can usually make orders about whatever is in the parenting plan. However, it must be satisfied that making the orders is in the children’s best interests and that there are proper arrangements to meet their needs. If the court isn’t satisfied, it may ask the parties to make further provisions, produce more proof, or it may refuse to grant the orders.  

Typically, a court will make orders about:

  • Where and with whom the children live, or how they will divide their time between the parents (or grandparents, or anyone else responsible for their care, welfare and development)
  • Child maintenance (if child support payments are not already being collected)
  • Other issues concerning the children’s day-to-day care, welfare and development: For example, religion, education, and other activities

If there is a history of or risk of child neglect or abuse, you must provide a special notice to the Court. Speak to us for more information.

How do I apply for a child consent order?

If you’re a parent, we’ll help you with your parenting plan and discuss whether you should also apply for a parenting consent order. If you decide to make an application, we’ll take care of it for you. We’ll discuss the process, including the cost, so you know what to expect.

If you’re a grandparent or other significant person in the child’s life, we’ll discuss your options to ensure that you can still play an important role in their upbringing.

If your former partner is seeking a consent order and you’re not sure whether to agree, we’ll help you weigh up your options to make the decision that’s best for you and your kids.

What will a court consider when making a consent order?

Under Australian family law, a court must consider whether the orders meet the best interests of the children. It will take into account various things, including:

  • Whether both parents should have a meaningful involvement in the children’s lives
  • The need to protect the children from abuse, neglect and family violence
  • Whether the children will receive adequate and proper parenting
  • Whether the parents can provide for the children’s care, welfare and development
  • Children’s rights to have regular contact with significant people in their lives
  • Children’s rights to access and participate in their culture

How long will a child consent order last?

The duration of a child consent order is the same as a parenting order: it lasts until the child (or each of the children) either:

  • Turns 18 years old; or
  • Starts a de facto relationship; or
  • Is adopted by someone else (although if a step-parent adopts the child, the orders won’t change)

A party to the order can also apply to change it, although a court can be reluctant to make any changes unless each party consents. It would usually only vary an order if there’s a significant change in circumstances.

What happens if there’s a breach of a child consent order?

If the other party breaches a child consent order, you can apply to a court for enforcement. A court may make further orders to compel the other party to comply.

If they continue to breach of the order, a court may issue penalties including fines or imprisonment, depending on the seriousness. The court may also issue orders requiring authorities or organisations to provide information about the person’s whereabouts, or orders for the return of your children.

If you’re concerned about a breach of a child consent order, you’ll need our urgent legal help. Often, the sooner a breach is acted upon, the better the outcome.

We’ve helped many clients make consent orders for children. We can help you too.