When two parents can't agree about who the children live with and who the children spent time with, a family law judge will decide.
The law tells a family law judge what to think about when they decide about the children. They have to decide what is best for the children.

  • The law does not talk about ‘custody’ any more. It talks about where children stay and who they spend time with.
  • The judge will decide who has parental responsibility for the children. This means they decide about things like where the children live and go to school.
  • If you and the other parent cannot agree, and you have tried Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), you will need to go to the family court for a judge to decide who will have parental responsibility.

Text based resources about this topic


Arrangements for children
Northern Territory Law Handbook – Parenting After Separation: Parental Responsibility

This webpage talks about parental responsibility.


Family Law and Children

This webpage talks about family law and children.


Glossary: What these words mean

parental responsibility

Parental responsibility is the responsibility to decide big things in children’s lives, such as where they live and where they go to school.

family dispute resolution (FDR)

When two people are separating, family dispute resolution (FDR) can help them decide what happens with children, property and money. It is cheaper than going to court.


Custody is when police hold you so you can’t leave. This is usually in prison while you wait to go to court.

(Modified from the Plain English Legal Dictionary 2015)

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