Parenting arrangements – are they legally binding?

Separating couples who have children together have a legal requirement to provide for their children, making sure that their interests are looked after. Some people choose to use a family lawyer to resolve custody disputes, especially if a separation is nasty or on unfriendly terms.

On the other hand, a lot of parents come to informal parenting plans and arrangements. These might be in the form of documents that are signed and dated or verbal agreements. The important thing to realise is that many parenting arrangements aren’t always legally binding.

In this article we’ll explore the formalities surrounding parenting arrangements, when they are legally binding, when they aren’t and the things you can do to protect yourself and your children.

Are Written Agreements Legally Binding?

In truth, informal written parenting agreements aren’t usually legally binding – even if they’re complete in the presence of a family lawyer or other legal professional. However, they do have the benefit of helping separated parents move on with their lives.

On the other hand, problems can arise if one parent decides that they don’t want to continue to follow the agreement. They can effectively do what they want, potentially disrupting both the lives of both the other parent and the children in question.

One of the best things to do is to make sure that your parenting agreements are formalised by the courts. A family lawyer will be able to guide you on the process of doing this.

When is my relationship considered ‘De Facto’?

De facto relationships are becoming increasingly common in the modern world as less and less people marry at an early age. Instead, people often decide to live together without getting married, which leads to them being considered a ‘de facto’ couple under the eyes of the law at some point.

Now, there are important legal considerations that you need to be aware of once you are considered to be in a de facto relationship. The best way to understand these is to speak with your local family lawyer, but we’ve done our best to provide a brief overview below.

What is a de facto relationship?

The exact definition of a de facto relationship does differ by state in Australia, but basically it involves a serious relationship between two people who aren’t married, but who live together as if they are. There are a lot of things to think about when working out if you’re in a de facto relationship or not, including:

  • How long you’ve been together.
  • How long you’ve been living together. Usually you need to be living together at least part of the time to be considered de facto.
  • Whether there’s a sexual relationship and whether you have children together.
  • Whether you share joint bank accounts or own major joint assets.
  • Whether you act as if you’re married or in a serious relationship when you’re in public.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that contribute to help the law identify if you’re in a de facto relationship or not. If it’s particularly important for you to know then consider speaking to your local family lawyer.