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Divorce can be a very distressing process not just for the parties involved but also for close family members. It is important to comfort your children through the process and make sure they understand what is going on and that it is not their fault. It is most important to keep the interests of the children in mind and ensure that they suffer as little as possible both during the divorce and in whatever arrangements are made for them subsequently.

Once you have separated from your spouse or partner, it is important to make suitable living arrangements for the children and ensure that both parents have contact with them.

The Family Law Act sets out the following principles: unless it would be contrary to a child's best interests:

  • children have the right to know and be cared for by both their parents regardless of whether their parents are married, separated, have never married or have never lived together;
  • children have a right of contact on a regular basis with both their parents and with other people significant to their care, welfare and development;
  • parents share duties and responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their children; and
  • parents should agree about the future parenting of their children. Parents are encouraged to agree on matters concerning their children rather than seeking an order of the court.

If you and your partner can agree about the parenting of the children, who they should live with and the contact they should have with the other parent, then you may wish formalise that agreement through the Family Court. There is no obligation to do so.

If parents cannot agree about the parenting of their children, then an application can be made to the Family Court for its assistance in resolving disputes. Through the court process, the Family Court will encourage parents to reach their own agreement about the children but ultimately, if parents are unable to agree, the Family Court can make parenting orders about a child. A child residence order is a parenting order.

Whenever the court makes any orders about children, the most important consideration is what is in the best interests of the child.


If you would like more information on this legal topic, or you wish to obtain formal advice regarding your situation, contact Ward Keller Lawyers. They are located at Level 7 Northern Territory House, 22 Mitchell Street Darwin NT 0800 or call them on (08) 8981 2971.

Ward Keller is the Northern Territory's oldest, and one of its largest, legal practices. Because of its history, size and skilled resource base, Ward Keller practices in most areas of the law. The firm is broadly divided into two main areas, Commercial and Litigation. While Ward Keller acts for a number of significant government departments as a result of the privatization of government legal work, Ward Keller remains a firm focused predominantly on the private sector. In Commercial Ward Keller retains a particular strength in mining and resources, infrastructure projects, land access and development, business advice, finance and estates. In Litigation Ward Keller continually acts in commercial litigation, insurance, industrial relations, work health, personal injuries and medical negligence. Ward Keller and its employees maintain a commitment to service on the basis that proper service results in the creation of long standing relationships to the mutual benefit of all parties in achieving their goals in an increasingly competitive environment. Ward Keller's commitment to service is founded upon quality legal work combined with timely and efficient dealings with its clients.

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