Before exploring the topic of primary carer rights, let’s first understand the meaning of primary carer.
Under family law, primary carer can be defined as the person with whom the child spends most time with.
Usually, the primary carer of a child is one of the parents. However, in some cases, depending on different circumstances, the primary carer can also be the child’s grandparents, or aunts and uncles.
Depending on the case, the primary carer may have sole parental responsibility, with chances of the child spending little or no time at all with the other parent.
Sole parental responsibility means that only a single parent (primary carer in this case) will have all authority and decision-making responsibility for all matters in the child’s life.
Depending on the parenting arrangements made, the primary carer of the child may also share custody with the other parent, and have equal shared parental responsibility with the other parent.
How Is The Primary Carer Assessed By Court?
For making any parenting orders, the court needs to first assess who the primary carer of the child is. To do so, the court refers to certain considerations that are stated in the Family Law Act 1975.
The primary considerations found in Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975 are as follows: –
- The benefits to the child of having a healthy and meaningful relationship with both parents, and more importantly,
- The need to protect the child from from any kind of harm – physical, psychological or sexual harm – from being exposed to family violence, or subjected to abuse, or neglect.
When someone in the extended family, or a family friend becomes the primary carer of the child, the term kinship carers is used.
Unlike primary carers who are parents of the child, kinship carers do not have set roles to undertake. The child may live with kinship carers for a short period of time until a parent can take care of them. If this is not possible, the child will be under kinship care, and will be raised by the kinship carers.
Since the duties of kinship carers differ from those of primary carers who are parents, kinship carers may or may not be entitled to primary carer rights (where primary carer is one of the child’s parents).
Responsibilities Of Primary Carer
As discussed above, the primary carer is the person in the child’s life who has primary responsibility for caring for the child. Some of these responsibilities include:
- Looking after the child’s needs – including dressing needs, feeding and bathing needs, and any outings.
- Making most arrangements for the daily needs of the child. This could include making doctor appointments, or dentist appointments, and also accompanying the child on those appointments.
- Serving as the primary emergency contact, and is the first individual for the school, day care, or college of the child to contact in all emergency situations.
- Taking the child to and fro from the school, day care, pre-school, or kindergarten.
Changing Primary Carers
Depending upon the specific situations and circumstances, the primary carer of the child can change. In doing so, the court will first and foremost consider if such a change is in the best interests of the child.
This is because changing the primary carer of the child will have emotional impacts on both the parents and the child. Because of this reason, great consideration needs to be taken before making such drastic decisions.
In making any decision, as with all family law cases, the court considers the best interests of child.
For instance, in the case of Ryder & Donaldson  FamCAFC 260, the court found that there was risk of harm if the child continued to stay with the mother – who was the primary carer at the time.
The court ordered that there be a change of primary residence of the child, and a period of supervised time for the child to build a rapport with the father – all decisions made after considering what’s best for the child.
Gradually, this was also followed by a reintroduction of unsupervised time with the mother, to allow the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Primary Carer Rights: Parenting Payment
Primary carer rights usually includes certain provisions for the primary carer, to enable her/him to take proper care of the child.
One such important provision is Parenting Payment. Parenting payment is an income support payment that is often discussed when considering primary carer rights.
Parenting Payment offers financial assistance to the primary carers, or principal carers with parenting responsibilities for a young child, and provides them with incentives to increase their participation in workforce, and reduce overall dependency in income support payments.
Parenting payment under primary carer rights may include financial support in the form of: –
- child care subsidy
- additional child care subsidy
- rent assistance
- energy supplement
- pharmaceutical allowance
- pension supplement (where applicable)
- remote area allowance (where applicable)
JB Solicitors’ Guidance In Family Law Matters
To recap, parenting payments under primary carer rights is one of the support payments that government bodies provide to principal carers.
Since family law is complex, it might be difficult to deal with matters concerning child care, including who should be the primary carer, and understanding all primary carer rights.
JB Solicitors’ expert family lawyers are here to address all your legal concerns. Our fixed-fee pricing for family law will give you a clear sense of the costs from the start, and will facilitate transparency. Our lawyers ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case.
Contact our firm if you have any queries regarding family law, or if you wish to have a confidential chat on any matter.