Following a divorce or separation that involved the Courts, the concept of equal shared parental responsibility will undoubtedly arise if the former couple has children.
You may be interested to know that Parental responsibility is the Australian way of saying custody. However, unlike custody, it also encapsulates all significant decisions a parent may make concerning their children.
The purpose of this article is to discuss what shared parental responsibility is and what you should be aware of if you are or will be involved in a parenting dispute in Court.
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.”
Accordingly, parental responsibility involves parents’ decision-making power concerning major long-term decisions relating to the children. These include:
- Schooling and education
- Living arrangements
- Religious upbringing
- Medial decisions
- Changing the child’s first and last name
- The child’s diet
What Is Shared Parental Responsibility?
Shared parental responsibility, more commonly known as equal shared parental responsibility, refers to the parenting arrangement structure where both parents have equal rights and duties to care for and make decisions regarding their children.
When the Court is making a parenting order, the starting basis is that an equal shared parental responsibility arrangement is in the children’s best interests. This is so that the children can have a meaningful relationship with both parents, under s61DA of the Family Law Act (1975).
The result of this arrangement means that parents will have to make a genuine effort to cooperate and consult with one another regarding all significant decisions concerning their children.
For example, if one parent wishes to change where the child goes to school and whether their children attend church or not, they will have first to discuss the matter with the other parent and reach a compromise.
Considerations Before Proceeding To Court
The concept of equal shared parental responsibility only exists in Court.
Accordingly, before you consider making an application to the Court to determine parenting arrangements – you should consider attempting a mediation session to resolve the matter informally without the assistance of the Court.
Going down the mediation route presents several advantages. Firstly, the session is far less costly in contrast to pursuing litigation. This is because you do not have to pay any legal fees such as Court fees and a lawyer’s fees which can add up very quickly.
Mediation is also more efficient and less stressful in contrast to Court. If you pursue the matter in Court, you may sometimes have to wait several months before you get a hearing, and then the dispute may not even be determined at the time of the hearing, and the matter will be delayed further. In contrast, a mediation session can resolve the issue efficiently in one sitting.
When Is Equal Shared Parental Responsibility Not Applicable?
As stated earlier, equal shared parental responsibility is merely a presumption by the Court. Accordingly, it can be rebutted by evidence proving that it is not in the children’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
In determining whether the parenting arrangement is appropriate, the Court will consider the children’s best interests. This means that the Court only considers the welfare, safety risks and psychological risks of the children having a specific parent involved in their life, and not the other way around.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
When discussing equal shared parental responsibility, it is essential to note that the Courts consider a wide variety of factors in determining your parenting arrangements and that every situation is different.
This is why it is recommended to seek legal advice from a lawyer regarding your specific circumstances.
Please feel free to contact our team of experienced family lawyers to discuss the prospects of your matter.
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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