The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

1.1.C.70 Custody order, court order (FTB)


For the purposes of FTB, a custody order is a document issued by the Family Court of Australia before the changes in 1996 which sets out the terms and conditions of who has custody of a child. Custody is defined in the Family Law Act 1975 as being:

  • the right to have the daily care and control of the child, and
  • the right and responsibility to make decisions concerning the daily care and control of the child.

Custody orders were issued by the Family Law Court before 11 June 1996, and are still valid despite the reforms to the Family Law Act. From June 1996, custody orders were replaced by registered parenting plans (1.1.P.21) or parenting orders (1.1.P.19). From 2003 the requirement to register parenting plans was removed.

A person who has custody of a child is taken to have legal responsibility (1.1.L.20) for the child.

Interpreting a court order

If the court order does not assign custody to a particular person, it can be deemed that both parents have joint legal responsibility.

Variations to an original court order can be made as separate orders in addition to the original, or may replace the original. Unless the new order replaces all previous orders, all of the orders should be obtained and read in conjunction with each other.

Act reference: FAAct section 22 When an individual is an FTB child of another individual

Policy reference: FA Guide Shared care & change of care summary

Last reviewed: