Often family lawyers are asked to “define sole parent.” This topic comes up especially in matters involving child custody disputes. There are many important topics to consider when we define sole parent in Australia.
For example, sole parental responsibility is a very important concept linked directly with the definition of sole parent. To define sole parent, let’s look at what the legislation says about sole parent and sole parental responsibility.
The simple answer to the question “define sole parent” is that a sole parent is a person, either male or female, living in a household with his/her child or children without the presence of the other parent.
A question which is closely tied to the topic of define sole parent is what is sole parental responsibility? Let’s first look at how Australian legislation defines parental responsibility.
Parental responsibility in relation to the child, means all the duties, powers, responsibilities which by law parents have in relation to children. This mainly includes the responsibilities of making short-term and long-term decisions in the child’s life.
Based on this, it might be easy to understand that sole parental responsibility means that only one parent will have all the responsibility of making important decisions in the child’s life.
Define Sole Parent: What Is Sole Parental Responsibility?
When a person has sole parental responsibility, he/she will not need the consent of the other parent while making important decisions in the child’s life. Some examples of these decisions include:
- Where the child is to study;
- Changing the child’s name;
- Decisions on the child’s health including all major health-related decisions such as whether any medical procedures are required;
- Decisions regarding the child’s cultural and religious upbringing;
- Authorising passport or any other travel document for the child;
- Decisions about moving, or changing living arrangements.
Notably, people are often confused about the terms ‘sole parental responsibility’ and ‘sole custody’ and often think that they can be used interchangeably. This is not accurate.
While parental responsibility is related to making decisions in the child’s life, custody is more to do with visitation rights. It is important to note that when a parent has sole parental responsibility, it does not necessarily mean that the other parent cannot spend any time with the child.
The only cases where the other parent will not get to spend time with the child is when that parent has engaged in family violence involving abuse, harm or neglect. If this happens, a parent can get sole custody of the child to keep the child safe from harm, neglect or abuse.
Case Study Example
To understand the difference between the two, let’s look at a case study example. In the case of Lorreck and Watts  FamCAFC 149, the judge ordered that the father would have sole parental responsibility for the children, and that the children were to reside with the father.
Additionally, the judge ordered that the children would spend all school holidays with the mother. This is a common type of custody arrangement where the children live with the non-residing parent during school holidays or vacations.
By analysing this example we can understand that sole parental responsibility need not mean sole custody. The other parent can be allowed to have custody or visitation rights over the children.
Define Sole Parent: What Is Sole Custody?
As briefly mention above, sole custody is sought in cases where there is family violence or domestic violence involved. If a parent has caused harm to the child by abusing them, or neglecting them, the other parent can make an application for sole custody of the child.
To define sole parent, we saw that the parent who lives with the child without the presence of the other parent is called the sole parent. Whether the sole parent has sole parental responsibility or sole custody depends on a case-by-case basis.
In cases where the child has been subjected to abuse or neglect because of one parent, the other parent can apply for sole custody of the child. When the court makes a decision around this, the best interests of the child will be considered.
This is mainly because, as mentioned under Section 60CC of the Family Law Act (1975) the court considers it to be in the best interest of the child for the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. In other words, there are two primary considerations when discussing the best interests of the child. These include:
- the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm as a result of being subjected to, or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence; and
- the benefit to the child of sharing a healthy and meaningful relationship with both his or her parents.
There are various other secondary factors in relation to the best interests of the child which the court considers when making any orders. For instance, the views and opinions of the child, or any practical difficulties or expenses of a child spending time with or communicating with one parent.
But if the court finds that granting sole custody to one parent will benefit the child, and ensure the safety and well-being of the child, then the court can make parenting orders accordingly.
Importance Of Seeking Legal Advice
Whether you are considering to apply for sole custody of your child, or are just looking for more information on ‘define sole parent’, it is highly advisable that you speak with professionals who have a wealth of knowledge about such matters.
At JB Solicitors, our family lawyers have dealt with numerous matters related to divorce, separation, child custody and sole parent issues. They have the knowledge to tackle each case by providing tailored-advice to ensure that the clients receive the best possible outcome.
The best way to clear any queries is to speak with professionals who can give you a detailed explanation on all matters. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our lawyers.
Contact our experienced and friendly team of lawyers today.