This article aims to discuss sole parent meaning in Australia. It will also elaborate on key aspects relevant to this topic such as sole parent responsibility and what this means under Australian legislation.
In simple terms, sole parent meaning is a parent – either the mother or father – who looks after the child without the presence of the other parent. In understanding sole parent meaning, it is important to note that sometimes a sole parent may also be known as a “primary carer.”
As we have mentioned above the main topic to be considered when discussing sole parent meaning is sole parental responsibility. But, what is parental responsibility?
Under the Family Law Act (1975), in Section 61B parental responsibility is defined as follows:
Parental responsibility in relation to the child, means all the duties, powers, responsibilities which, by law, parents have in relation to children.
Sole Parent Meaning: Parental Responsibility
Having understood the definition of parental responsibility, when you put this definition in the context of ‘sole parent meaning’ you might realise that when only one parent has all the parental responsibility over the child, he/she is said to have “sole parental responsibility.”
Sole parental responsibility means that only one parent will have the responsibility of making all major long-term decisions in the child’s life.
These major decisions in the child’s life are usually made by agreement between two parents, where both parents enjoy “equal shared parental responsibility.” This means that post separation or divorce, both parents make long-term decisions for the child’s life based on mutual agreement.
However, where a sole parent is involved, he/she will have sole parental responsibility, and can make decisions without needing the consent of the other parent.
Given below is a list of such major long-term decisions in the child’s life:
- The child’s current and future education;
- The child’s religious and cultural upbringing;
- Changing the child’s name;
- The child’s health – especially medical procedures;
- Authorising a travel document (such as passport) for the child;
- Changing the living arrangements of the child in a way that makes it significantly harder for them to spend time with a parent – this might include moving far away.
Sole Parental Responsibility Or Equal Shared Responsibility?
If you are keen to know what is sole parent meaning, it is likely that you or someone you know might be facing certain parenting disputes. The question of whether there is sole parental responsibility or equal shared parental responsibility depends completely on the details of each case.
The courts will consider the best interests of the child in making decisions around parenting. Generally, there is a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.
According to Section 61DA the Family Law Act (1975) the presumption includes:
When making a parenting order in relation to a child, the court must apply a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child’s parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child.
Section 61DA also states that this presumption will not apply in cases where the parent of the child, or any person who lives with the parent of the child has engaged in:
- abuse of the child or another child, who was at the time a member of the family or the parent’s family (or the family of any person living with the parent); or
- family violence.
The way to rebut the presumption, and seek sole parental responsibility is by providing evidence to the court that sole parental responsibility will indeed be in the best interests of the child. The two primary considerations under the best interests of the child, as stated in Section 60CC of the Family Law Act (1975) are:
- the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents; and
- the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence
So when an application for sole parental responsibility is being made, the court will need evidence proving why a relationship between the child and the other parent will be harmful for the child’s safety or well-being.
Sole Parent Meaning: Case Study Examples
In the case of Malcher & Malcher  FamCA 1063, the mother sought parenting orders from the court which would give her sole parental responsibility over the children.
On the other hand, the father sought for equal shared parental responsibility between both parents. However, the court found that there was a serious lack of ability for both parties to communicate with each other.
In separation or divorce cases, the success of equal shared parental responsibility largely depends on how well the two parties can communicate with each other. However, in this case, the parties were unable to communicate in a rational and respectful way with each other.
It was found that the father of the children failed to communicate with the mother, and in the event where he did communicate, he did so with great disrespect and contempt. Furthermore, the mother presented evidence which proved that the father had committed acts of domestic violence against her throughout the course of their relationship.
Ultimately, the mother was given sole parental responsibility of the children. The final order involved parenting arrangements, or custody arrangements wherein the children were to primarily live with the mother, and spend school holidays with the father.
Importance Of Seeking Legal Advice
Because of the complicated nature of family law, especially when children and parenting disagreements are involved, it is highly advised that you seek legal guidance from experienced family law solicitors.
At JB Solicitors, our expert team of family law specialists have dealt with a wide variety of divorce and separation cases involving custody and parenting disagreements. With years of experience under their belt, they are equipped in dealing with each unique case by providing tailored advice such that all clients reach their desired outcomes.
JB Solicitors offers fixed-fee pricing for family law which gives you a clear sense of the legal costs from the start. If you have more enquiries regarding sole parent meaning, do not hesitate to reach out to our expert team today.
Contact JB Solicitors for all legal needs.