No matter whether you are married, in a de facto relationship, have never been in a relationship, are separated or otherwise, we’ll help you get advice and support for your unique parenting situation.
What is parental responsibility in the eyes of the law?
In Australia, family law and parenting matters apply to all parents:
- birth parents
- adoptive parents
- parents through artificial conception or surrogacy
- individuals under a presumption of parentage
- Individuals who a court has determined have parental responsibility for a child or children
Parents have a legal duty of care and parental responsibility for a child which continues until the child turns 18.
Children have the right to proper parenting, to know and be cared for by both of their parents and to be protected from harm, from being exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence. They have the right to parenting that helps them achieve their full potential and to spend time and communicate on a regular basis with both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development. They have the right to be educated, to have medical care and to enjoy their culture. “Parental responsibility” means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law parents have in relation to children.
Under Australian law, parental responsibility is the obligation and duty parents have to make long-term decisions about a child’s:
- Current and future education
- Religious and cultural upbringing
- Changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent
What are your rights as a parent?
In Australia, parents don’t have rights – only children have rights. Parents have obligations, duties and responsibilities towards their children. The default position at law is that parents have equal shared parental responsibility for their children – the power, responsibility and authority to make joint decisions about the long-term welfare of their children.
If you and the other parent cannot agree about – for example – where your child should live or attend school, neither one of you is to make a unilateral decision about a long-term issue to do with your child. You must reach a joint decision – in short, you must agree. If you cannot agree, you should not make a decision. You must consult with one another about what is in the long term best interests of your child and attempt to reach a joint decision. Where you cannot do so, you are required to participate in what is known as “compulsory family dispute resolution”.
Also, when it comes to parenting time, there is no 50-50 rule. The amount of time a child spends with both parents is individual to each family. Decisions about how much time a child should spend with a parent or whether or not they should live with another are decisions determined by what is considered in that child’s best interests.
Primarily, your child has the right to spend time and live with both parents to the maximum extent possible, except when to do so would expose your child to harm, abuse or neglect. In the absence of there being any risk to your child of being harmed or likely to be harmed by the other parent, you should consider whether or not your child spending equal time with both parents is in your child’s long term best interests (unless where to do so would be impracticable).
If you agree your child should live with one parent and spend time with the other, then the time your child spends with the other ought to include the following (where there is no risk of harm, abuse or neglect):
- Days and nights that fall on weekends
- Days and nights that fall during the week
- At times that permit you to be part of the child’s routines and participate in extracurricular activities with your child
- On special occasions (e.g. your birthday, your child’s birthday)
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Christmas and Easter
- Any other religious festivals your child would ordinarily participate in
Agreeing on these arrangements can be difficult, especially when your children are very young or are older and have expressed strong views. Whatever your situation, we can help support and guide you through your parenting journey.