When does child custody end in Australia?

Mother laughing with daughter. When does child custody end?

When a relationship ends, it can be incredibly difficult to arrange care of your children. Both you and your ex partner will want what’s best for your kids but, ultimately, you may have differing ideas about what that looks like, or which parent can best deliver it. 

At this stage, it’s always better to negotiate and come to an agreement that suits both carers and your children. If negotiating is not possible, if the child wants to live exclusively with one parent, or if you already have a child custody arrangement that you believe isn’t working out, there may still be a solution. 

Here’s everything you need to know to navigate the important and difficult matters of child custody. 

When does child custody end?

If you want to see more of your child or your child custody arrangement isn’t working out for other reasons, there’s often a way to make changes.

The best option is almost always to simply talk to your partner if possible and your child and communicate what exactly you think is best. If the child custody arrangement was made informally outside of court, it can be changed at any time, provided both carers agree and any change is in the child’s best interest. It’s always better to solve these problems by negotiating outside of Family Court as it’s cheaper, easier and less stressful for you and your children. 

If you can agree on a new arrangement, it may be a good idea to formalise it by creating a parenting plan. This is a simple document that specifies how decisions are made about your child’s parenting and lays out each parent’s responsibility. 

Parenting agreements are not legally enforceable but they can be useful to better structure your parenting and give your child more stability. 

Father throwing child in air. When does child custody end?

What if we can’t reach an agreement?

If you can’t reach an agreement with your partner, the next step is to talk to a family lawyer. The lawyers here at Testart Family Lawyers specialise in mediation to help you come to a compromise outside of court in a way that’s as quick, easy and pain-free as possible.

In the event that you can’t find a compromise, you may need engage in Family Dispute Resolution Counselling to take the matter to the Family Court in order to end your current child custody arrangement and come to a new agreement. 

Read our blog on how to get full custody of your child to find out more about this process.

At what age can a child decide which parent to live with? 

If your child wants to live with a certain parent, their wishes will always be considered by the family law court – and should of course be considered when negotiating outside of court. 

But at what age can your child choose? The answer is – it depends. 

The court will consider the age of the child and their maturity when weighing their preferences and making a decision. But these are only two factors out of many that the court will consider.

They will also look at the amount of time the child has spent with each parent in the past, and which parent is best placed to look after the child’s psychological and physical needs. Generally, the court will prefer to allow both parents as much time as possible, provided doing so does not put the child at risk. 

When your child reaches the age of 18 (and is legally an adult) they are able to choose which parent to live with without any interference.

Father holding child’s hand. When does child custody end?

What if my ex partner wants full custody?

If the other parent wants to end your current child custody agreement and try to gain full custody, you may need to attend the family court. 

The burden of proof rests with the other parent in this case for a few reasons:

  • The law presumes that it is in the child’s best interests that both parents maintain a relationship with the child.
  • It would be necessary to establish that you pose a risk to the child. 

If the other parent wants full custody of your child, it’s always best to take the situation seriously and seek legal advice. Testart Family Law has decades of experience helping in situations just like this, using experience, knowledge and compassion to reach the best possible resolution. 

Get in touch today to arrange a free no-obligation consultation and find out how we can help you.