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Joint Custody Arrangements
04 Jun 2024

Joint Custody Arrangements: A Complete Guide

By Family Lawyers Mackay, 04 Jun 2024
Child Custody

After a couple divorces or separates, they must go through legal procedures to determine who their child(ren) will reside with. Joint custody arrangements ensure that the children spend equal time with both parents. Under joint custody, the child splits their time equally between both parents.

Before we go into this topic, it’s worth noting that the term “custody” is no longer generally used. Rather than “custody,” Australian legislation favours the terms “parental responsibility” or “parenting arrangements.”

The division of the child’s time between the two parents is a crucial topic to cover when talking about joint custody arrangements. Moreover, “legal custody” indicates that the parent can make significant choices for the child. 

It’s called parental responsibility, as previously explained. The definition of parental responsibility is as follows under Section 61B of the Family Law Act (1975):

Parental responsibility refers to a parent’s rights, power, and legal obligations toward their kid. In addition, a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility for the child appears in Section 61DA of the Family Law Act (1975). Stated differently:

What is joint custody?

Regarding family law, “joint custody” refers to the situation in which both parents are granted equal shared parental obligations, often known as shared or joint custody rights. Either parent has to agree to decisions regarding the child’s upbringing for equal custody. This covers factors like the kid’s sports activities, school, upbringing (including religion), etc. A child does not always have “joint custody” if they spend the same time with both parents. The best interests of the child are the Court’s top priority.

Is Joint and Shared Custody the Same Thing?

Joint and shared custody are different, even if they might happen simultaneously. Joint custody refers to decisions parents make regarding their children, whereas shared custody refers to the children’s living arrangements.


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.

Shared Custody Australia: Important Aspects the Court Takes Into Account

When making parenting orders, the Court often considers the presumption of equal shared responsibility.

According to Section 61DA of the Family Law Act (1975), the Court will apply the presumption of equal shared responsibility, which holds that equal shared parental responsibilities are the best for the child.

The following are the main factors to take into account when determining what is in the child’s best interests:

  1. The advantages that come with a child having a deep bond with both parents and 
  2. The necessity of shielding the child from injury (physical or psychological) caused by exposure to abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.

This means that the presumption is refuted in situations where a parent has participated in:

  1. Abuse of the child or another child who was a family member at the time; or 
  2. Violence inside the family.

Furthermore, this assumption relates to parental responsibility rather than the child’s time with the parent. This can vary depending on the circumstances. 

In Australia, the Court takes into account the following elements while deciding on shared custody:

  1. Whether having an equal amount of time with each parent would be best for the child;
  2. Is it “reasonably practicable” for the child to spend equal time with each parent? The Court will, for example, consider whether the parents reside close to one another and whether travelling is feasible in this regard.

Suppose the Court determines that shared custody is the best choice. In that case, it will consider establishing a parenting order requiring the child to spend equal time with each parent. Suppose a direct parenting order is not granted. In that case, the Court will incorporate a clause allowing for shared custody between parents in Australia.

New laws on parental responsibility

The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 will become operative in May 2024 after passing both chambers of parliament in 2023. It gives the courts new authority to gather and exchange information with other authorities and makes several important changes to the rules about parenting orders. One of its most significant reforms is eliminating the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.

Under the new laws, a judge may order shared or joint parenting responsibility. If a judge grants shared parental responsibility, parents must genuinely attempt to reach a consensus when discussing important long-term decisions about their child.

The recently enacted Act stipulates that parents of children under eighteen are urged to confer with one another regarding significant, long-term matters about the kid, always prioritising the child’s best interests.


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.

Joint Custody Arrangements: Important Details

Parents wanting to come to an agreeable agreement on joint custody should adhere to a few general guidelines. Among them are:

  1. Having a realistic outlook on personal obligations and schedules, similar to business schedules;
  2. Refraining from disparaging the ex-spouse in front of the child or children;
  3. Realising that the child is the focus of joint custody and not any of the parents;
  4. Developing a personalised custody plan for the child or children, which may involve assessing the child’s temperament, age, and participation in extracurricular and academic activities;
  5. Figuring out a communication method that works;
  6. Being aware of how crucial communication is during co-parenting;
  7. Recognising that a parent-child connection does not necessarily have to suffer as a result of a parent-child relationship failing;
  8. Ensuring the child or children feel heard; and
  9. Review and make necessary changes to the current shared custody agreements.


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.

Arrangement Examples

Alternate Weeks: One Week Off, One Week On

Under this arrangement, the youngster will alternate weeks of living with each parent. This arrangement enables the child to spend nearly equal amounts of time, on alternate days, with each parent.

In general, parents who live close to one another give this thought. This may work well if the youngster needs to attend one school and stays in the same social circle despite weekly moves between homes. 

Alternate weeks with visits

Under this arrangement, the child will alternate between each parent’s homes once a week, although the other parent may visit the child mid-week.

Alternate Days

The alternate-day schedule may work best for more minor children who cannot endure being away from either parent for extended periods. However, this will only be feasible if both parents live in the same vicinity.


In this scenario, the child spends the entire academic year living with one parent and all school holidays, including public holidays and vacations, with the other parent. Considering the possibility that the parents won’t divide the time equally is essential.

#Note: Although these are possible plans, the final design must consider your family’s situation. 

How Do Issues Get Resolved if Parents Can’t Agree on a Shared Custody Arrangement?

The initial action is mediation if you and your ex cannot agree on your children’s living arrangements after the split. You may apply to the Court for parental orders if mediation fails to produce a mutually beneficial outcome. 


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.

Some Tips and Guidelines for a Dual-custody Parent

Here are a few tips and suggestions to assist your child in maintaining a sense of stability in a dual-custody situation, whether you are considering adopting this arrangement or are already a dual-custody parent:

  • Open Communication: 

Effective child support requires co-parents to communicate openly with one another. Even though the two homes differ significantly, a child feels supported by both parents if they have consistency in their decision-making process. By doing this, the child may be prevented from using the adults’ separation for their gain or from “playing off” their parents against one another.

  • Establish the Same Guidelines: 

Equitable expectations from one home to the next will ease the child’s transition from one to the next and make them feel safe. Enforcing this guideline will also give both parents greater confidence in their parenting abilities. They won’t feel guilt for being the “bad parent” in this way.

  • Organise the Details

A custody schedule is only one of several factors to consider. Taking a seat and answering detailed questions about care might help prevent conflict and last-minute stress.

  • Establish a comparable sleep schedule: 

It has been found that children in dual custody families most frequently struggle with sleep issues, so pay close attention to the nighttime routine in both homes. Regardless of the house, stick to the same bedtime and wake-up hour. 

  • Be patient during the transition: 

Some kids may be cranky or unsettled right after moving places; pay special attention to their needs on transition days. Some children want to get into their routine, but others require time to talk about their day with their other parents. Allow them room or offer additional accommodations during the changeover, but avoid asking too many questions about their time away.

  • Double Up: 

To alleviate the stress of packing, have two sets of clothing, favourite toys, and school things at both houses. Please help your child pack their baggage to relieve their stress. If something is forgotten, avoid blaming your child or co-parent.

How Would a 50/50 Arrangement Work with My Child?

Many parents employ typical custody arrangements, such as the 50/50 custody arrangement, to reach a mutually beneficial compromise for all parties and the child. As the name implies, a 50/50 custody arrangement involves a child seeing one parent for half of each month and the other for the other half.  Many split parents still determine what 50/50 parenting time with their children would look like.

The answer to this question is complex, as each family is unique, but what it means for your family can be expressed as follows. This could be through week on/week off or when the youngster spends equal time between parents. Most parents agree to make vital long-term decisions equally. This may be the ideal child custody arrangement, depending on your child’s age.

Family Lawyers Mackay’s  Family Lawyers For You

We understand that parents are stressed following their separation since they are concerned for their children. As leading family lawyers, we understand the necessity of creating arrangements that guarantee the child is not damaged by his or her parent’s divorce or separation.

Because each family situation is unique, you must develop parenting plans tailored to your needs. Family Lawyers Mackay’s skilled family law team can approach each case differently and recommend the best parenting arrangements for you. We will analyse your case, learn your schedules, and aid clients in making the most effective arrangements that suit parents and children.

Contact our compassion family lawyers immediately. 


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.


Can we change joint custody agreements?

Custody arrangements may be adjusted in the event of a substantial change in circumstances or with the consent of both parents.

What takes place when parents can’t agree on shared custody?

If the parents cannot agree, they could go through mediation or have the Court decide what’s in the child’s best interests.

How can parents ensure their kids are consistent in joint custody arrangements?

In addition to speaking often about their child’s needs and activities, parents can promote consistency by upholding comparable norms and routines in both houses.

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