Shared Parental Responsibility is not referring to the amount of time children spend with their parents.
As a general approach, the Family Law legislation in Australia considers that it is in a child’s best interest for both their parents to have an input in any major or day-to-day decisions regarding how they are raised. These kinds of decisions can include: medical treatment or diagnosis, where the child resides, schooling and education, sports or extra-curricular activities and religious practices. To a lesser extent it can also include more day-to-day decisions, such as: diet, routine or discipline.
There is a presumption that equal shared parental responsibility applies in all cases before the Family Law Courts under the Family Law legislation. This means that shared parental responsibility is the starting point. This will generally be the case where a child is spending meaningful time with both parents and each are capable and willing to participate in these kinds of decisions. This may be especially important if one parent has a particular cultural or religious background and they wish for their child to be raised practicing or learning about this.
When isn’t Shared Parental Responsibility Appropriate?
However, there are some special circumstances where it may not be practical or appropriate for both parents to have a say in their child’s upbringing. These circumstances can include: where a child is estranged from one parent (by that parent’s choice), if a child would be unsafe if a parent were to be allowed to make decisions on the child’s behalf (for example in cases or extreme family violence against the child or in the child’s presence, serious mental incapacity, drug use, or paedophilia) and if a child has exceptionally high needs which cannot be met by one parent.
Shared parental responsibility will be addressed in either a parenting plan or Court order regarding care arrangements for your child. The process will generally require that the parents attempt mediation prior to filing an application in the Court, unless mediation would not be appropriate (for example, if one parent has withheld children, or there is a background of domestic violence).
If you have questions about joint parental responsibility, you can contact one of our helpful staff to discuss what might be right for you.
Brittany graduated from Flinders University with a Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice and a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting). She has been admitted to the Supreme Court of South Australia and the High Court of Australia.
Brittany specialises in the areas of family law, divorce, personal injury claims, wills and estates and criminal law. Brittany is a member of the general panel of the Legal Services Commission of South Australia.
(08) 8725 6969
Legal Secretary: Ms Karen Howard