The Family Law Act talks about parental responsibility as being either equal shared parental
responsibility ( joint), or sole parental responsibility to one parent. The Act presumes that parental responsibility will be equally shared between parents but that presumption can be overturned in circumstances where there has been family violence in the relationship. There are other factors that might make it more desirable that there is a sole parental responsibility to the parent with whom the child primarily lives; for example if there are risk concerns with the other parent; or if the other parent is difficult to contact; or if there has been extreme hostility between parents such that it would be impossible for them to co-parent.
Equal shared parental responsibility requires parents to consult and attempt to reach an agreement in relation to the following long-term major issues in a child’s life:
- religious and cultural upbringing
- The child’s name
- living arrangements where those changes make it significantly more difficult for the child to
spend time with a parent.
I have stressed,” long term” and “major” to distinguish from day-to-day issues such as what a child eats for breakfast or whether they have a sleepover at a friend’s house or whether they can take Panadol. Equal shared parental responsibility requires parents to consult and attempt to reach an agreement in relation to “major” or “big ticket” issues, not the general day-to-day things, which is to be decided by the parent with whom the child is with on that day.
With this in mind, parents should think about whether parental responsibility is really worth the battle if there is a dispute, because depending on the ages of the children, sometimes there is nothing left to really argue about in relation to parenting responsibility. For example, religion may already be established. The child’s school may already be determined. The child may have no foreseeable medical needs. The parent with whom the child primarily lives may have no intention of changing the child’s name and even so that can be included in an order which still gives one parent sole responsibility but not in relation to the change of any name. In relation to where the Child lives, this will always be determined against any court orders that set out the time the child spends with each parent. If the child spends time with the other parent, such that the orders will not be able to be followed if the primary care parent moved away, then that primary care parent is not able to move away without the consent of the other parent whose time would be affected