Children & Parenting Issues

Under Australian family law, children have a right to enjoy a meaningful relationship with both their parents as well as being protected from harm.

Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility means both parents jointly make major long-term decisions relating to the child’s welfare and upbringing.

‘Major long-term issues’ includes things like where a child will go to school, major health decisions, and religious observance.

Each parent ordinarily has parental responsibility for the child regardless of whether they are married, in a de facto relationship, never in a relationship or otherwise. This means that both parents can independently make decisions about the child.

When the parents of a child under the age of 18 separate, they both continue to share parental responsibility for the child in this way.

A court may decide it is in the best interests of the child to remove parental responsibility from one or both parents. A court can also decide to assign parental responsibility to a legal guardian.

If the parents would like to create a legal obligation to, they should make or request a court order for Equal Shared Parental Responsibility).

Equal shared parental responsibility is not the same as equal time.

Parenting Time

There are no specific rules about making arrangements for which parent a child will live with or spend time with after their parents separate.

This used to be called making ‘custody’ or ‘contact’ arrangements. These terms are no longer used in Australian family law.

There is no rule that children must spend equal or “50:50” time with each parent.

In most cases, it’s best that both parents discuss their child’s individual needs and come to their own agreement about where a child will live, and how they will spend time with their parents.

There are all sorts of different ways that separated families can make sure that their children have ongoing relationships with both of their parents. If you and your former partner agree on the future arrangements for children, you do not have to go to court.

You can make a parenting agreement or obtain ‘consent orders’ for parenting orders approved by a court.

Best Interests of The Child

When making decisions about children, what matters the most is that parents focus on what would be in the best interests of their child.

Most separated or divorced parents successfully agree on their own arrangements for the care of their children after joint discussions.

If parents can’t agree on arrangements for children after separation, specialist family mediation services can help parents come to a mutually agreeable decision or compromise.

If parents still can’t agree, a judge in a family law court will make a decision. The judge’s decision will be based on the best interests of the child in accordance with the Family Law Act.

Financial Responsibility for Children

Both parents also have a duty to support the child financially after separation, regardless of who the child lives with. Parents can manage this between themselves or apply for a child support assessment.

The Department of Human Services administers the child support program, assisting parents to provide support for their children.

At Maude Family Lawyers we can provide you with advice regarding the Child Support Agency, Child Support and applying for a reassessment of a child support decision.