Frequently Used Terms in Parenting Matters

The list below conveys a set of terms which frequently arise during Family Law Parenting Matters:

Abuse – in relation to a child means,

(a) an assault, including a sexual assault, of the child; or
(b) a person (the first person) involving the child in a sexual activity with the first person or another person in which the child is used, directly or indirectly, as a sexual object by the first person or the other person, and where there is an unequal power in the relationship between the child and the first person; or
(c) causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm, including (but not limited to) when that harm is caused by the child being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence; or
(d) serious neglect of the child.

Affidavit – a written statement by a party or witness. It is the main way of presenting the facts of a case to the court. An affidavit must be signed before an authorised person (such as a lawyer or Justice of the Peace) by way of swearing on the Bible or attesting to the truth of the contents of the statement.

Appeal – a procedure which allows a party to challenge the decision made by a court.

Applicant – the person who applies to a court for orders.

Best interests of the child – the paramount consideration when the court is considering parenting orders. Some factors considered include the benefit for the child of having a relationship with both parents, the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm, views expressed by the child, the capacity of parents to look after the child and the effort made by the parents in regard to the child.

Consent order – an agreement between the parties that is approved by the court and then becomes a court order.

Court order – the actions the parties or a party must do to carry out a decision made by a court. An order may be either interim or final.

Declaration of Parentage – a statement made by the court about who the parents of a child are for legal purposes.

Divorce order – an order made by a court that ends a marriage.

Enforcement order – an order made by a court to make a party or person comply with (follow) an order.

Family consultant – a psychologist and/or social worker who specialises in child and family issues that may occur after separation and divorce.

Family dispute resolution – a process whereby a family dispute resolution practitioner assists people to resolve some or all of their disputes with each other following separation and/or divorce.

Family Law Courts – comprise the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Family Law Act 1975 – the law in Australia which covers family law matters.

Family law registry – a public area at a Family Law Court where people can obtain information about the court and its processes and where parties file documents in relation to their case.

Family report – a written assessment of a family by a family consultant. A report is prepared to assist a court to make a decision in a case about children.

Family violence – means violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful. A child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or is otherwise exposed to family violence. See the Family Law Act, section 4AB, which gives examples. Family violence may also amount to child abuse.

Family violence order – an order (including an interim order) made under a prescribed law of a State or Territory to protect a person from family violence.

Final order – an order made by a court to bring a case to a close.

Independent children’s lawyer – a lawyer appointed by the court to represent a child’s interests in a case.

Interim order – an order made by a court until another order or a final order is made.

Jurisdiction – the authority given to a court and its judicial officers to apply the law. For example, the courts have jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 in family law matters.

Parental responsibility – the responsibility of each parent to make decisions about the care, welfare and development of their children. These responsibilities may be varied by agreement or by a court order.

Parenting plan/spend time plan – a written agreement between the parties setting out parenting arrangements for children. It is not approved by or filed with a court.

Precedent – a decision made by a judicial officer, which may or may not be binding on other cases or orders.

Recovery Order – an order made by the court requiring the return of a child to the parent or person that they are meant to spend time with under a parenting order. A recovery order is generally be made following the breach of parenting orders.

Respondent – a person named as a party to a case. A respondent may or may not respond to the orders sought by the applicant.

Section 60I certificate – a certificate issued by a family dispute resolution practitioner, certifying that both parties have made a genuine effort to resolve that dispute via family dispute resolution practices before a court order is applied for.

Subpoena – a document issued by a court, at the request of a party, requiring a person to produce documents and/or give evidence to the court.

All definitions have been taken from the Family Law Act 1975 or the Family Court website.

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