A parent or guardian of a child may wish to apply for sole parental responsibility of their children because they are concerned about their children’s exposure to a co-parent that may be violent or a bad influence.
Unfortunately, sometimes this situation is necessary because children’s minds are vulnerable, and the continuation of existing parenting arrangements may have a damaging impact on your children’s physical safety and psychological well-being.
The following article will discuss what sole parental responsibility is and the situations you may wish to consider applying for it.
What Is Parental Responsibility?
Before discussing the concept of sole parental responsibility, it is essential to understand the definition of parental responsibility under the Family Law Act (1975).
The Act defines parental responsibility as “All the duties, powers, responsibility and authority which parents have concerning children”.
Accordingly, parental responsibility essentially refers to parents’ decision-making power over major long-term decisions that impact their children.
Examples of such decisions include:
- Major medical and dental decisions
- Their living arrangements
- Their religious upbringing
- Their diet
- The amount of time spent with each parent
- Any changes to their child’s name
- What school they will attend
What Is Sole Parental Responsibility?
Sole parental responsibility is a Court-ordered legal parenting arrangement structure that provides one parent all the decision-making power regarding their children to the exclusion of all others, including the other parent.
This encapsulates all the items mentioned earlier, such as the children’s living arrangements, what school they attend, and so forth.
The Family Court Of Australia has the power to award one parent with the sole parental responsibility of the children and may even issue a no-contact order.
However, it is crucial to understand that sole parental responsibility and termination of parental rights are different things. In a sole parental responsibility arrangement, even though one parent will not be able to exercise their rights and responsibilities concerning their children legally, they are still considered the parent of said children.
Can I Deny The Other Parent Access To Our Children?
Generally speaking, you may only deny the other parent access to your children if you have Court orders to that effect which state you have sole responsibility for them and they do not have any visitation rights.
There are, however, some limited circumstances where you may deny them access to your children:
- To protect the safety of the children
- Where it is in the best interests of the children to do so
- Where the other parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Where the other parent has serious mental health problems
What Happens If You Pursue Sole Parental Responsibility In Court?
The Court’s starting point in determining the parenting arrangements is equal shared parental responsibility, which means it is presumed to be in the best interests of the children to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. This is reflected in s61DA of the Family Law Act.
Accordingly, a successful application pursuing sole parental responsibility will mean that this presumption has been rebutted by providing evidence to the contrary.
This means that it is not in the child’s best interests to continue to have a meaningful relationship with that parent.
What Are The Best Interests Of The Child?
As mentioned earlier, the Court will consider the child’s best interests in determining whether a grant of sole parental responsibility is appropriate in the circumstances.
The two most pivotal factors in successful sole parental responsibility cases are the following:
1. The child is exposed to a parent who is either violent or abusive towards them or another family member or abuses substances
2. The above factor outweighs the benefit for the child having a meaningful relationship with that parent against that parent.
Additional ‘best interests’ considerations include:
3. Any views expressed by the children
4. The amount of time each parent has to spend with their children
5. The practicality and reasonableness of the proposed arrangements
6. The ability of the parents to facilitate an ongoing relationship for the benefit of the children
7. The capacity of each parent to provide for the children financially
8. The capacity of each parent to address the emotional and caring requirements of the children
9. The impact of the proposed arrangements on the children
10. Whether each parent has fulfilled or can fulfil their duties as parents
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
When discussing the matter of sole parental responsibility, it is essential to note that there are a wide variety of reasons you may wish to seek the arrangement and that this article only covers the most common causes.
Please feel free to contact one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers today to discuss your particular circumstances.
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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