The Australian Family Court handles divorce property settlements, and it also has a hand in child custody decisions. Ultimately, the court system wants to ensure both parents have the opportunity to build a deep and meaningful relationship with their children. Every child has that right, and the court will try to facilitate that. Before you embark on a journey to agree on child custody, you should speak to a lawyer to understand the process and your individual situation. 

Types of Custody Agreements 

When dealing with the property pool and property settlement after separation, there are highly charged emotions as divorcing couples try to separate their lives. The property settlement process isn’t the same as child custody. There are often more emotions involved and it’s important to remove that charge from the decision-making process to ensure the right decision is made to benefit the children. 

  • Shared/Joint

In the case of shared or joint custody, both parents share the decision-making and share physical parental responsibilities. A shared care plan may involve rotation where the child spends two days at one house before spending the next two days with the other parent before returning to the original parent for three days. This trades off so each parent gets the same amount of time with the child over the course of two weeks. This is most common for young children, while older children may follow a 2-2-5 shared care plan. Ultimately, if parents can agree on the shared care plan, the court will follow their lead. 

  • Sole

This is one parent who has custody and is in charge of making all of the decisions related to child-rearing. 

The Decision 

There are a variety of factors the court will assess to determine the right custody path. For example, if the child is old enough to express their wishes, the court may choose to weigh these up. In addition, how the change of circumstance will impact them, the practical difficulties, each parent’s ability to provide for a child’s needs, the attitude each parent has toward their children, a history of family violence, and anything else the court may deem relevant. 

Consent Orders 

A parenting plan is agreed upon between parents, but it is not legally enforceable. It covers the care arrangements, parent responsibilities, decision-making, how children will remain in communication with the parent they are not with at the time, and how parents will communicate. 

A consent order is issued by the court. It is essentially the court’s approval for a parenting plan that two parents have agreed on together. It makes the plan legally binding. It can also be the result of a judge’s order if the parents cannot come to an agreement. 


If there is a dispute over how child custody should be shared, you have several paths available to you. In addition to mediation, there are also court proceedings. 

  • Mediation

When parents can’t reach an agreement between themselves, a mediator can help. This is something your lawyer can arrange and a mediator will facilitate the discussion between both parents. The purpose is for parents to reach a mutual agreement to draft a parenting plan, whether you choose to pursue a consent order or not. 

If there is a history of family violence, mediation is not recommended. Your lawyer can help you navigate this situation. Though mediation is a good course of action, it isn’t one to pursue until you have consulted with a legal expert. 

  • Family Court

Family court is the final option and if it reaches this stage, the decision is entirely out of your hands and entirely in the hands of the court. You have to live with whatever decision they make, though you do have a chance to present your case. It should be the last resort. The mediator will not take sides, they simply provide both parties with a controlled environment to find a resolution. 

Taking the court route isn’t just expensive, it can be time-consuming with many cases taking up to three years to resolve. 

There is also arbitration, but it is not an appropriate course of action for child custody matters – it is reserved for property settlement or financial matters. 

How AJB Stevens Can Help 

If you are navigating a child custody situation, your lawyer can provide you with legal guidance and  advice as to which path is the right decision for you. 

If you have a family law property settlement, you need a lawyer to help you resolve it before the property settlement time limit expires. And, if you have a child custody dispute or agreement to make, you need expert lawyers to guide the process. AJB Stevens can advocate for your rights and help you ensure the outcome is right for you and your children.