For couples who are going through a divorce or separation, the topic of shared parental responsibility definition is important. Before we come to shared parental responsibility definition, let us first understand what is parental responsibility.
According to Section 61B of the Family Law Act (1975), parental responsibility refers to all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law parents have in relation to their children.
Parental responsibility includes shared parental responsibility, and sole parental responsibility. Shared parental responsibility definition is as follows:
Both parents have equal rights and authority to make long-term decisions in the child’s life. This means that if a parent needs to make a decision in the child’s life following divorce or separation, he/she will need to consult the other parent.
Knowing the types of parental responsibilities is important when separated or divorced couples are in the process of making visitation or custody-related arrangements to ensure that each of them are able to spend quality time with their child.
Shared Parental Responsibility Definition: Long-term Decisions
To know shared parental responsibility definition, it is also important to understand what are the common examples of long-term decisions which both parents have to make unanimously for their child/ren. These are:
- Where the child is to study and complete his/her education both in the present and in the future;
- Matters related to the cultural and religious upbringing of the child;
- Health-related matters for the child including what kind of healthcare the child should or should not receive;
- Decisions regarding living arrangements for a child;
- Matters related to the child’s name; and
- All other decisions related to the care, welfare and development of the child.
Presumption Of Equal Shared Parental Responsibility
In knowing shared parental responsibility definition, it is also important to note that this is often called as equal shared parental responsibility under the Family Law Act (1975).
Section 61DA of the Family Law Act states that family courts apply a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility before making any parenting orders.
This is deemed to be in the best interests of the child, as an important consideration under the best interests principle is that the child should have a meaningful relationship with both his/her parents.
There are some instances in which this presumption does not apply. These include scenarios where:
- a parent has engaged in family violence;
- a parent has engaged in abuse (physical, sexual or psychological) of the child, or another child who was at the time a member or that parent’s family.
Where it is considered that applying this presumption will not be in the best interests of the child, it has to be rebutted by providing appropriate evidence to the court.
Custody And Responsibility
Sometimes, two parties will have equal shared parental responsibility even if one parent is a non-custodial parent, i.e., if one parent does not live with the child permanently. In such cases, the non-custodial parent can make visitation schedules and arrangements to spend time with the child, while at the same time having authority and decision-making ability in the child’s life.
For example, in the case of Gilshannon & Giles  FamCAFC 31, the court ordered that while the children were to permanently live with the mother, both parents still had equal shared parental responsibility over the child. Other orders made included allowing the children to gradually increase the amount of time they spend with the father.
What Is Sole Parental Responsibility?
Having understood shared parental responsibility definition, it is also imperative for you to have an idea of sole parental responsibility. If a parent has sole parental responsibility, he/she will not be required to consult the other parent when making any short-term or long-term decisions for the child.
Sole parental responsibility is given to a parent in serious cases such as when the other parent has exposed the child to harm or abuse by subjecting them to family or domestic violence.
To get sole parental responsibility, a parent has to make an application to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. The court gives the best interests of the child paramount consideration when making any parenting orders.
Under best interests of the child, the court gives importance to a child having a meaningful relationship with both his/her parents. For these reasons, if a party makes an application for sole parental responsibility, sufficient evidence will need to be provided to the court which proves why the other parent should not have decision-making authority in the child’s life.
Importantly, another consideration under the best interest principle is the need to protect the child from all forms of harm or abuse. Some secondary considerations under the principe include the views and opinions of the child, the kind of relationship the child shares with both parents, the effect that any changes will have on the child’s current circumstances.
In cases where there are no instances of family or domestic violence, the parties who are seeking parenting orders in relation to parenting responsibility must first attend mediation services to reach a solution.
Seek Legal Advice From JB Solicitors
This article has explored shared parental responsibility definition, and certain related concepts such as sole parental responsibility. Legal matters related to parenting and child custody are always stressful. This is because each party already feels overwhelmed from the divorce/separation.
Adding to this is the uncertainty around how their custody and visitation arrangements will be finalised. Because Australian family law gives great importance to both parents having a meaningful relationship with the child/ren, there are multiple legal avenues available for parents to have responsibility and authority in the child’s life.
However, as we have seen, in cases involving abuse and violence, strict parenting orders can be made depending on the severity of the case. For all parenting matters and child custody issues, having legal guidance is essential.
At JB Solicitors, our family law team offers market-leading legal advice to all our clients. We are committed to reaching the best possible outcome for our clients.
Contact us today to know more about shared parental responsibility definition, or for any other family law enquiry.