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Amending final parenting orders where indefinite supervision

There is a long standing principle in Family Law matters that there should be an end to litigation. Orders are described as final. In parenting matters the idea that such orders shouldn’t be overturned except where there has been a material change in circumstances is often referred to as ‘the rule in Rice and Asplund’.
It is sensible to have as a tenet of our legal system that cases must end and people must get on with their lives. Where children are involved this is even more important.

Arguing over the arrangements for children is never a happy situation. Sometimes people become involved in lengthy court battles until at last there is a trial and a judge has to decide the outcome. In some circumstances it may be appropriate for one parent’s time with the children to be subject to some form of supervision.

A recent case helped to demonstrate that sometimes the judge’s ‘final orders’ may not be quite that after all where supervision appears to be indefinite.

In Bronson & May (No.2) [2017] FCCA 2317 the Family Court was asked by the mother to dismiss a father’s application to spend unsupervised time with the children despite there being final orders made in 2015 whereby his time with the children was to be supervised. His honour Judge Jones declined to dismiss the application – referring in his decision to the absence of any possible review of the supervision. The decision meant that the ‘final’ parenting orders could be revisited by further litigating in the courts with all of the uncertainty and expense entailed.

From this case we can see the importance of considering fully any likely future changes when formalising arrangements for children. Doing this at the right time should help reduce the prospect of legal challenges in the days ahead.


For more information on this topic please contact Margaret Miller, Partner and Family Lawyer. This article has been prepared by Bell Legal Group for general information purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.