If you are going through a separation, you may have come across the term ‘Equal shared parental responsibility’. Australian family law commonly uses this phrase in cases involving children. However, it can be confusing, especially against the highly emotional backdrop of a divorce. For this reason, our Family Lawyers explain why it is important for separating or separated parents to understand what the term means and how it will affect them and their children - in particular, those concerned that their former spouse may be making decisions regarding long-term issues

What is Equal Shared Responsibilty?

Parental responsibility, as outlined in section 60B of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) is any duty orresponsibility that concerns “the care, welfare and development” of children - obviously one of the primary considerations between a couple going through a separation.

All things considered, maintaining the best interests of the child is the most significant concern of the Court. Accordingly, the concept of parental responsibility was introduced to move attention from parental ‘rights’. And onto providing adequate and appropriate care for children instead.

How do the courts determine best interests of a child?

It is a presumption of the Court that equal shared responsibility is typically within the best interests of the child. Therefore, making any major, long-term decisions regarding the following, must be discussed. And a genuine attempt must be made by both parents to come to a joint decision, accordingly. These are:  Firstly, health;Secondly, education;Thirdly, religion;Fourthly, name; orFifthly, changes to any living arrangements. Indeed, these decisions are not the general, day-to-day decisions regarding the clothing or dietary choices of the children. They only relate to any long-term, major decisions.

Family Violence

In circumstances where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent, or a person that lives with a parent, has engaged in abuse of the child or there is family violence, the Court will typically grant sole parental responsibility.  However, if you are unsure about what equal shared responsibility means for you and your children or you are concerned your former spouse may be making decisions regarding long-term issues, please contact our friendly team on 02 9891 6388.  New South Lawyers’ communications are intended to provide commentary and general information and not relied upon as legal advice. Seek formal legal advice in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication.

To find out more, chat with a member of New South Lawyers' Family Law Team today.