Can someone who is not a parent apply for a parenting order?
Yes, they can. According to the Family Law Act, “any other person concerned with the care, welfare, or development of the child” can apply for a parenting order. But what does that mean exactly?
Courts are usually quite strict when looking at applications for parenting orders by people who are not parents, or grandparents of the children involved.
But in some cases, they will consider other people close to the child. For example, in one case (Norrie & Norrie) the court decided that a child’s adult half-sister met the requirements for caring for the child.
The half-sister and the child shared the same mother. The mother did not take part in the court case and there was evidence she had recently been hospitalised for mental illness. The child’s father had never played a role in his life and lived overseas.
The court noted the half-sister had known the child all his life, had already helped the child’s godmother – with whom he had been living – deal with several aspects of his life, and understood the need for someone to have authority to make decisions about the child’s long-term care, welfare, and development.
There are several circumstances in which people other than parents could apply for a parenting order, including:
- The parents are alleged to have a drug problem/mental health issue or other issues effecting their capacity to be a parent
- The person applying is being refused contact with the child by the primary carer
- The person applying is the non-biological parent from a same sex relationship
- The person applying is a former de facto partner of the primary carer and played a significant role in the care and welfare of the child during the child’s life
When making a parenting order, the courts will hold the best interest of the child as the top priority. The court will take into consideration:
- The nature of the child’s relationship with the person
- The likely effect of any change of the child’s circumstances, including the effect of a separation from any person with whom they have been living
- The capacity of the person to meet the needs of the child, including physical and emotional needs
This is a complicated area of family law and if you are not a parent, guardian or grandparent, your ability to obtain court orders to secure time with the children will depend on your role in the children’s lives, your interest in and involvement in their wellbeing, and overall, whether it’s in the best interest of the children.
If you are seeking parenting orders, and you’re not a parent, please contact our office on: (07) 3288 3511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.