A Common question our firm gets all the time from separated or separating parents is ‘What is Equal shared parental responsibility?’. Equal shared parental responsibility is a commonly used term in Australian family law cases involving children. It is vital for separating parents to understand what the term means as it will impact them and their children.
The purpose of this article is to provide an easy to follow guide on what exactly equal shared parental responsibility is.
What Is Parental Responsibility?
The Family Law Act 1975 defines parental responsibility as: “All the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have concerning children.”
Parental responsibility encapsulates the decision making power of parents regarding major long-term issues relating to the child, such as:
- Schooling and education
- Religious upbringing
- Living arrangements
- Medial decisions
- Changing the child’s first and last name
Presumption Of Equal Shared Parental Responsibility
When the court is making a parenting order, the presumption that must apply is that it is in the child’s best interests to have an equal and meaningful relationship with both parents, hence equal shared parental responsibility – According to s61DA of the Family Law Act.
Equal shared parental responsibility means that parents must make a genuine effort to consult and cooperate with the other parent when making decisions concerning major long term issues about the child. For instance, if a parent wishes to change the child’s school, they must discuss this with the other parent before acting.
Before an application is made to the court to determine parental responsibility, parents must typically engage in a mediation session to attempt to resolve the matter.
This presumption does not apply if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child’s parent has engaged in child abuse or another member of the family or family violence. The court will also typically allow applications to be made to the court without mediation in these circumstances.
Alternatives To Equal Shared Parental Responsibility?
Suppose it is not reasonable or practical for the court to order equal shared parental responsibility. In that case, the court may alternatively order that the child spend ‘substantial or significant time with both parents.
When considering how much time the child will spend with each parent, the court considers circumstances such as:
- The best interests of the child, including considerations of any history of family violence, and the need to protect the child from any psychological and physical harm
- The views expressed by the child, if any
- The time the parent has to spend with the child
- The reasonableness and practicality for the child to spend time with the parent, including the distance between the parents, how well they communicate with one another; and where the child goes to school
- The capacity of the parent to provide for the caring and financial needs of the child
- The impact of the arrangement on the child
- Whether the parent has fulfilled or can fulfil the duties as a parent
Please get in contact with our team of friendly and experienced family lawyers to discuss your circumstances.
Equal and Shared Parental Responsibility Versus Sole Parental Responsibility
In parenting disputes, the court has the power to alter the parental responsibility arrangement from being equal shared parental responsibility to giving one parent more control or sole parental responsibility for major long-term decisions. The primary basis the court will consider to make this determination is what the best interests of the child are.
In some instances, parents may have an equal shared parental responsibility in all aspects of the child’s life, except for potentially one or several distinct subjects where only one parent would be responsible, such as religion or education.
Contrastingly to equal shared parental responsibility, sole parental responsibility is when only one parent can make decisions about the child. This means that the parent with sole parental responsibility does not need to consult with their partner regarding major decisions for the child, such as what school they will be attending, their religious upbringing, etc.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
When doing your research on equal shared parental responsibility, it is important that you obtain the correct information relevant to your unique set of circumstances. The wrong advice or information can be detrimental to your case and result in an unfavourable judgment. This is why speaking directly with an experienced family lawyer is so vital.
Here at JB Solicitors, we’ll make the process as pain-free as possible. We have fixed-fee pricing for family law, giving you a clear sense of the costs from the start, and we will be sure to help you out every step of the way. With years of experience under our belt, we pride ourselves on making each client’s family law experience as positive as possible.
Contact JB Solicitors today to speak with one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers.
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