When your relationship is over, and the decision to separate is forced on you, it should not affect your relationship and your parental responsibilities to your child or children. I understand the pain that you are experiencing and the uncertainty that you may have.
Let's take one step forward and thing what is the best for your child and what is your child needs.
You and the other parent negotiate a private agreement specifying parenting arrangements. If it is in writing, it may take the form of a parenting plan. It may be negotiated with the assistance of a family dispute resolution practitioners or lawyers.
A parenting plan sets forth the parenting arrangements for their child/children. This includes issues such as:
custody or whom the child shall live with;
The parenting plan will be part of the divorce decree, and the parents are obligated to abide by the provisions of the parenting plan issued by the family court.
Private agreement and parenting plan is inexpensive, simple, and easy to vary, and they do not take the same emotional toll as litigation.
The downside is that parenting plan is not enforceable under the law. If efforts at private agreement fail, you may apply to the court for orders specifying post-separation arrangements.
In case, of dispute or non-compliance by one parent, or when the parents simply separated without a formal divorce and one parent seeks to enforce the compliance of the other parent with his parental legal responsibility, that parent may apply to the Federal Circuit Court for a parenting order.
Grandparents and even the child or children can also apply for a parenting order.
However, before the party seeking the parenting order can file the application in court, the party must attend a parenting dispute resolution. At this parenting, dispute resolution conferences the parties in conflict must attend and participate with genuine efforts at resolving the dispute. Often, the parties in dispute can agree with each other, and when this happens, a parenting plan is written up. A parenting plan means that the parties need no longer apply for the issuance of a parenting order from the family court.
The parties may, however, apply for a consent order. A consent order is when the court reviews the parenting plan entered between the parties in conflict and consents to the arrangements made for the parenting of the child.
In all of this, whether a parenting plan or a parenting order is issued, the first and foremost consideration is the best interest of the child. The law views that it is in the best interest of the child to maintain a meaningful relationship between both his parents and that both the parents equally share parenting responsibility. It is also in the best interest of the child for him to be protected from exposure to abuse or neglect.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), s 64B(2) provides detail and clarity about the matters that a parenting order can deal with. These matters include who a child is to live with, the time and other communications the child is to have with another person or persons, the allocation of parental responsibility and the form of consultations persons with parental responsibility are to have with one another.
In particular, s 64B(2)(g) of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that a parenting order may deal with the steps that should be taken before an application is made to a court for a variation of the order.