Shared Custody Arrangements are also called Joint Custody Arrangements. Under shared custody arrangements, a child will divide his/her time between both parents’ houses.
In Australia, the term ‘parental responsibility’ is preferred over the term ‘custody.’ According to the Family Law Act 1975, parental responsibility is defined as follows: –
“Parental responsibility in relation to the child means all the duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children.”
Equal Shared Parental Responsibility
An important aspect to discuss when considering shared custody arrangements is shared parental responsibility. The Family Law Act 1975 states that until the child turns 18 years of age, both parents share equal parental responsibility. This means that both parents are equally responsible for making important short-term and long-term decisions in the child’s life.
Among these are decisions about the child’s education or about any health-related issues. Equal shared parental responsibility is encouraged by the court when it is convinced that such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
Shared parental responsibility is a presumption that applies to all families following divorce or separation. Shared custody, however, deals more with the amount of time that the parents can spend with the child.
For parents to be able to spend equal time with the child, they will need to: –
- Make shared custody arrangements among themselves, or
- The court finds that shared custody arrangements is in the best interests of the child, and can make parenting orders for the parents to follow such arrangements strictly.
Shared Custody Arrangements In The Form Of Parenting Plans
For ensuring that shared custody arrangements are efficient and successful, parents can make a parenting plan among themselves.
Parenting plans can include essential day-to-day decisions about the child that both parents create together.
In making parenting plans to ensure efficient shared custody arrangements, parents should consider whatever is best for the child’s well-being. For a child, events like divorce between parents, or separation between parents can be extremely stressful, having long-term impacts in their life.
To avoid negative impacts, it is important that parents explore the best possible avenues to ensure that they are both actively and equally involved in the care, welfare and development of the child.
Under shared custody arrangements, the most popular parenting plans involve an alternative weekend or alternate weekday schedule. Through the alternate weekday schedule, the child spends roughly equal amount of time with both parents.
Wherever feasible, this is chosen as one of the primary shared custody arrangements.
Examples Of Shared Custody Arrangements
Apart from alternate weekdays or alternate weekends schedule, many parents also prefer a two-two-three schedule.
Under this arrangement, the child stays with one parent on Monday and Tuesday, and with the other parent on Wednesday and Thursday, and back with the other parent for the weekend, and so on.
In some instances, it is not possible for the child to keep moving from house to house, mainly because of distance issues. For those reasons, some custody arrangements simply involve one parent spending time with the child on all school holidays and vacations, and the other parent spending time with the child during school terms.
Will Shared Custody Arrangements Always Be Considered?
As stated above, the paramount consideration for the court in all family law proceedings is the best interests of the child.
Shared custody arrangements and equal shared parental responsibility will be presumed as long as it is in the best interests of the child.
In cases where a parent of the child (or any other person living with that parent) harms the child in any way, this presumption of shared responsibility will be rebutted. This includes if any parent, or anyone living with the parent engages in : –
- Abuse of the child – physical, psychological or sexual
- Family violence
- Abuse of another child who is a member of that parent’s family
- Abuse of another child who is a member of the other person’s family (where another person is involved)
For instance in the case of Zha v The State Of Western Australia  WASCA 160, the parents had a shared custody arrangement. However, it was brought to the attention of the court that the father in this case had allegedly sexually abused one of the three children.
The shared custody arrangement was maintained only until this allegation was made against the father, following which the court intervened and legal proceedings took place.
In any instance where the child is exposed to some kind of harm, the presumption of shared parental responsibility will be rebutted and the court will then make parenting orders based on the best interests of the child.
Family Lawyers Of JB Solicitors For Legal Guidance
Under family law, each case is different and everyone’s individual circumstances differ widely. To reach a solid parenting plan, it is advisable that you seek legal guidance.
Family lawyers will take your unique circumstances into consideration and help devise parenting plans that will benefit not only your children, but also you and your former partner.
In certain instances, disputes arise when parents want to make parenting arrangements following divorce or separation. In these matters, our expert mediators can help resolve all disputes, and facilitate a healthy discussion.
At JB Solicitors, our fixed-fee pricing for family law and divorce matters will give you a clear sense of the costs from the start. We want the process for our clients to be as transparent, and hassle-free as possible.
Contact our friendly lawyers who will provide you with the best possible outcome for your case.