Changing parenting arrangements

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How, and whether, you can change your parenting arrangements depends on what kind of arrangements you have.

Before you read the rest of this page, it is important that you understand whether you have a parenting order, parenting plan, or informal arrangement.

If you want a change to your parenting arrangements, the first thing to do (as long as it is safe to do so, and as long as it does not breach a family violence order) is to contact the other party (or parties) to raise what you want to change, and to see if they will agree.

If you, and/or the other party, have a lawyer, you could choose to communicate through lawyers.

If you and the other party have communicated about proposed changes to your parenting arrangements, and want help to try to reach agreement, you can attend Family dispute resolution counselling.

Can we change our existing parenting order?

To seek a change to existing parenting orders in court, you will need to show that there has been a significant change of circumstances that makes a change necessary. 

If you have been approached about the change or are served with an application for the change, you should consider if the change proposed is in the best interests of the child (or children). 

If you agree to the changes: 

  • you can sign draft consent orders which the Court can make into orders, without the need for you both to appear in court. For more information, see How do I apply for consent orders? 

Alternatively you may enter into a parenting plan. For more information, see the section 'If you agree on arrangements' and Parenting plans – Information for parents to consider when making a parenting plan available on the Family Relationships Online website.  

If you do not agree and you think that there has been a significant change in circumstances which makes a change necessary, you need to follow the same process as if you were applying to the Court for the first time. See We cannot agree.

If a final parenting order is in force, a Court must not reconsider the final parenting orders unless:

  • The Court considers there has been a significant change in circumstances since the final parenting order was made; and
  • The Court is satisfied that, in all the circumstances, it is in the best interests of the child for the final parenting orders to be reconsidered.

You should consider section 65DAAA if you are seeking to change to parenting orders without the agreement or consent of all parties to the order.

We do not have an existing parenting order

If your existing arrangement is an informal arrangement or a parenting plan, you can read about how to apply for a parenting order (and what you need to do first). See We cannot agree.

Practice directions

Practice directions are procedural guidelines issued by the Court. They complement legislation, rules and regulations. They provide specific direction about the practice and procedure that must be followed in certain types of proceedings.

Practice directions are issued by the Chief Justice/Chief Judge upon advice of judges of the Court, pursuant to the Court’s inherent power to control its own processes, as well as the power under the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 for the Court to give directions about the practice and procedure to be followed in a proceeding.

In general, practice directions are issued to:

  • complement particular legislative provisions or rules of court
  • set out more detailed procedures for particular types of proceedings, and
  • notify parties and their lawyers of matters which require their attention.

Below are links to the practice directions that apply to this area of law: