Expat parents — what happens if you separate?

Couples who have children and separate face a number of parenting challenges: who should children live with? What arrangements should be in place for children to spend time with the other parent? If you’re an Australian expat, it can be a particularly stressful time, as one or both of you may also wish to move cities or countries. There’s a lot to sort out, and you will need to start by trying to work out parenting arrangements with your ex.

If you have recently returned to Australia or wish to return home after separating from your partner, it may be possible for you to formalise agreed arrangements with your ex-partner for the care of your children by obtaining consent orders. These types of orders legally formalise each parent’s agreed rights and responsibilities in relation to their children.

If a shared parenting arrangement cannot be agreed and parents dispute either the amount of time each parent should have with their child or whether parental responsibility for their child should be shared equally, then either parent can apply to the Family Court for parenting orders dealing with those disputed issues.

While parents are obviously important, when it comes to determining consent orders or parenting orders, it is the rights of children with which Australia’s Family Court is primarily concerned. The Family Court will always make the children’s best interests its priority, which involves balancing the benefit to children of having a meaningful relationship with both parents with the need to protect children from physical or psychological harm, including exposure to family violence.

It is worth noting that when it comes to making parenting orders, the Court will generally presume that it is in a child’s best interests for both parents to have “equal shared parental responsibility”. This means that both parents have an equal role in making major or long-term decisions for their child, such as where a child lives or is educated, what a child’s religion (if any) should be, or treatment decisions for serious health issues.

Finally, there are important considerations to be aware of if your child is removed from their usual place of residence without the consent of the other parent. Many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK, are signatories to the International Child Abduction Convention, which provides for international cooperation in returning children who have been removed from one member country and taken to another. Unless both parents consent, legal advice is essential before any steps are taken to remove children from their country of residence.

Getting advice
Lander & Rogers is a leading provider of family law services in Australasia and internationally. We have significant expertise in international relationship and family law matters, including international property, alimony, child support and relocation. We have alliances with many international firms throughout Asia and the world.
Lander & Rogers Lawyers, Family & Relationship Law
www.landers.com.au