Change is a constant event in a man’s life. It may be that his circumstances today would be entirely different in the future. Change in circumstances in recognized by the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA) whenever it allows a parent to vary or amend an existing parenting order.
However, the change must be so significant such that it would be difficult or impossible for the parent to comply with the existing parenting order.
The ‘significant change in circumstances’ is the only requirement for the applicant to prove in court in an application to change a parenting order. The law does not even specify the significant changes but rather leaves it to the sound discretion of the court to decide if the circumstances of the case warrant a change of the existing parenting order.
The primary consideration of the court will still be the best interest of the child and the parent’s significant change in circumstances only secondary. The court would never order a variation or amendment of a parenting order if it would not be in the best interest of the child.
Usually the changed circumstances in a parent’s life are caused by a remarriage, new relationship, unemployment, illness, change of residence or change of work premises. The procedure to follow in applying to change an existing parenting order is the same as if you are applying for the first time for a parenting order. The parent must first talk to the other parent about the changes in his circumstances and make arrangements. The law always encourages the parties to resolve their issues out of court.
The parties may enter into a parenting plan that sets out the changes for the care of the child. The parties can also apply for consent orders from the court which would not require a full hearing on the matter. If the parties do not come to an agreement there is no other choice but to go to court and prove that there is a significant change in circumstances of the parent that makes it difficult or impossible for him to comply with the existing parenting order.
All parties, especially the applicant parent, must remember that unless the existing parenting order is changed it continues to have effect. A party must still comply with the parenting order until it has been changed otherwise he might be penalized for any breach.