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Family Law and Unmarried Parents

Family issues may not always involve divorce, especially when couples are unmarried. You may wonder what rights do unmarried couples have.

Questions like ‘Do mothers have more rights than fathers?’ or ‘Does my partner and I, as parents, have equal rights?’, ‘How can I keep my child?’, ‘How can the family law in Australia help me?’ are commonly unanswered. This guide on family law concerning unmarried parents might shed light on some of your issues. Read on.

Family Law Issues for Unmarried Parents

Under the Australian Family Law Act 1975, parenting is gender-neutral. Whilst the family law generally applies to married couples, some laws also apply to de facto and same-sex couples, as well as single parents. 

If you are an unmarried couple in Australia, here are a few things you need to consider when it comes to parenting. 

Parental Responsibility

Parenting responsibility is the legal term for the rights and responsibilities that parents have towards their children. In Australia, both mothers and fathers have equal responsibility for their children, regardless of whether they are married or not.

When unmarried couples separate in Australia, they often face the same child custody and parenting issues as married parents. However, there are some unique aspects to unmarried parenting arrangements that can make these issues more complex.

One of the most important things to remember is that, in Australia, there is no such thing as joint custody for unmarried couples. Instead, the court will decide which parent should have primary parental responsibility of the child based on the paramount principle being ‘what is in the best interests of the child’.

However, some of the things that the court will take into account include:

  • Wishes of the child dependent on their age
  • Wishes of the parents
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs
  • The child’s need for stability and continuity in their care arrangements

Remember that the court’s decision will be based on what is best for the child, not what is best for the parents. 

If you are an unmarried parent and you are having difficulty reaching an agreement on parental responsibility and parenting arrangements, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. A family lawyer will be able to help you understand your rights and options and can represent you in court if necessary.

Child Support

Child support is the financial contribution that one or both parents must makes to the other for the care of their shared child/children. The amount of child support payable depends on several factors, including each parent’s income and how much time the child spends with each parent.

In Australia, family law provides for child support in cases where unmarried parents live apart. The law requires that both parents take responsibility for supporting their children financially, regardless of whether they are married or not.

If you are an unmarried parent and you are not receiving child support from the other parent, there are some options available to you. You can apply to the court for a child support order or 

The Child Support Agency (CSA) can also help you to collect child support payments that are owed to you. The CSA can make arrangements with the other parent’s employer to deduct child support payments from their wages or they can take action to recover money that is owed to you.

If you are having difficulty collecting child support payments or need assistance to apply for child support, it is best to seek legal advice from a family lawyer to ensure your child gets the financial support that he/she deserves. 

Property Settlement

Property settlement is the process by which unmarried couples can divide their assets and property when they separate. Unlike married couples, there is no automatic entitlement to a share of the other person’s property, so it is important to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for both parties.

Family law in Australia provides for the property settlement of unmarried parents. The division and distribution of the net asset pool can be agreed by the parties and the Application of Consent Orders can be made or otherwise the process is legislated under the Family Law Act 1975 and overseen in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

The first step in the property settlement process is ideally for both parties to reach an agreement and have Consent Orders made by the Court. If this cannot be achieved then the second step would be for eithe party  to file an application with the court. A financial statement and all  other relevant documentation must accompany the application.

Once the application has been filed, the court will assess the financial situation of both parties and decide as to how the property should be divided. In making this determination, the court will take into account many factors, including:

  • Each party’s contributions to the property (including financial and non-financial contributions);
  • The needs of each party and any dependent children;
  • The assets and liabilities of each party;
  • The income, earning capacity and financial resources of each party;
  • The age and health of each party;
  • Any family violence committed by either party;
  • Tthe impact of any family violence on the property settlement; and
  • Any other relevant factor.

The court will then issue an order setting out its decision. This order will be binding on both parties and can be enforced by the court if necessary.

How Madison Marcus Can Help You

Family law rules are often complex and can be especially challenging for unmarried parents. Seek legal advice as soon as possible if you are facing fears like if your partner can take away your child from you or if you are wondering at what age can your child refuse or want to see his separated parent.

Our team of experienced family lawyers at Madison Marcus can help you understand your rights and options. We work to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children. Call us at 131-LAW(529) today for a free 15-minute confidential consultation.


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