04
Nov

Parental Responsibility – What is equal shared parenting?

Being a parent is hard work! One is expected to be responsible for a child’s wellbeing, education, development, security, and safety. This is your “parental responsibility”. It is the parents’ responsibility to decide and make an arrangement aligned to the “best interests of the child”.

WHAT IS EQUAL SHARED PARENTING?

Whether the parents remain together or become separated, they each have parental responsibility to their children (until the child reaches the age of 18). 

Parental responsibility refers to all the powers, duties and authorities given to parents over their children. Whether the parent is married, separated, re-marrying, if the child is below 18 years old, parental responsibility is applicable. This law is defined in the Family Law Act 1975.

Equal shared parental responsibility refers to both parents sharing the major long-term commitments to care for their kids. The agreement may include various issues including (but not limited to), such as:

  • the child’s medical and health concerns
  • the child’s religious upbringing
  • the child’s cultural upbringing
  • education (both current and future)
  • the child’s name and
  • living choices such as living arrangements that make it significantly complicates the child’s spending time with a parent.
  • the child’s dietary preferences, choice of lifestyle, sexuality, clothing and general day-to-day decisions (such as sporting activities).

IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD

For obvious reasons, generally, it is in the child’s best interest to have a harmonious relationship with both parents. However, settling a marriage or relationship can be difficult and this may include issues relating to a child’s custody arrangements.

NOTE: There are cases when a court will assume that the child’s best interest to not see one or both of the parents.  

Each parent must bear the “Best Interests of the Child” principle in negotiating for parenting agreements or settlements.

This law was clarified in the Family Law Act 1975 such as:

  • Each parent are responsible for the welfare and security of the child until 18 years of age; and
  • Responsibilities and cooperation included in parenting arrangements are shared responsibilities between both parents aligned in the best interest of the Child.
  • The court asses the Best Interest of a Child on Primary Considerations Second Consideration and other Additional Consideration. 
  • Primary consideration refers to the child having a valuable relationship with both parents.
  • The Second Consideration refers to the need to secure the child’s protection from psychological or physical harm and prevention from exposure to abuse, neglect or family/domestic violence.
  • The Court puts greater weight on the second consideration as it is aligned to the need to protect the child from harm and abuse.
  • Additional Considerations takes place by looking at the whole range of factors determining the best interests of the child.

Read More on our article relating to Child Support

PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

The presumption of Equal Shared Parental Responsibility happens when a Court is asked to decide to make a Parenting Order for a Child. 

The whole concept of parental responsibility was laid out into the Family law act, which draws attention apart from the rights of the parents unto their children, and onto parents’ responsibility to give necessary and appropriate for the children.

The main point in making this responsibility is through making sensible decisions about the lives of the children and their future.  

If it is not in favor of the child’s wellbeing, the court decides with the presumption of the equal shared parental responsibility. 

Q: How is it different from just parental responsibility?

A: Parental responsibility is subject to court orders.  

Equal shared parental responsibility means that both parents decide for the major long-term unanimously.

Both parents are required to make a valid effort to consult each other and arrive at a sound decision.

PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY & EQUAL SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY

Equal Shared Parental Responsibility is assumed to be that a child will spend equal time with each parent when they separate. This is sometimes not the case.

This grounds can be proven wrong in some situations, such as when one parent has exposed the child to abuse or domestic violence or where the Court declares that the living arrangements and overall situation would not be in the best interest of the child for the parents to share equal parental responsibility.

Shared parental responsibility deems that the consideration of the Court will issue orders that adhere to the child in the best interest.

Some cases need equal parental responsibility, however, when only one parent has a responsibility, for example, in case of death or another issue, then only one parent is given sole parental responsibility. This means that the sole parent chooses and cares for the child’s needs and does not need the approval, or oversight of the other parent.

Child behavioral psychologists agree that young children need the assurance of an identifiable primary caregiver, where they have stability and security for a long period of time. In this regard, the Court is oftentimes hesitant to make orders to matters that concern a very young child regarding equal shared parenting.

However, as the child grows older the Court will tend to allow more equal arrangements normally. For example, this may mean, if a teenager, expresses a firm preference in favor of a particular parent, for a lawfully valid reason, the Court is unlikely to make orders that are opposing those wishes.

CONCLUSION

It is important that all parents clearly understand the concept of shared responsibility, and this includes other relatives and parties to the arrangements. 

To shed some light on your exact situation, speak with one of our talented Mackay Family Law team.

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