Parental responsibility refers to how decisions are made for children. Generally parental responsibility is in relation to long-term decisions more so than day-to-day decisions. Long-term decisions primarily relate to where the children live, what health care they receive, what schools they attend and what religious instruction they receive.
Generally when Court Orders are made in parenting matters, an Order is required as to how parental responsibility will be allocated. The two options are equal shared parental responsibility and sole parental responsibility.
Equal shared parental responsibility means that both parents have a role in making long term decisions effecting a child’s health, welfare, and education. Shared parental responsibility does not mean equal time spent with a child. Sole parental responsibility means one parent will make all decisions related to the child’s health, welfare and education.
Parental responsibility may include some of the following decisions:
· Where a child goes to school or day care
· If a child needs medical treatment, including surgery
· If a child needs dental work, including braces or removal of teeth
· If a child needs to see a counsellor, social worker or psychologist
· What a child’s religion may be
· What out of school activities a child may participate in.
The presumption of equal shared parental responsibility is referred to in the Family Law Act. It means that there is a presumption that a child will benefit from having both parents equally involved in making long term decisions about their health, welfare and education, and therefore such an Order should be made.
The Court will start at this presumption, and wherever possible, make an Order for equal shared parental responsibility. However, equal shared parental responsibility is not always appropriate. The Court can disregard the presumption and make an Order for sole parental responsibility.
The Court may disregard the presumption for the following reasons:
· That the other party is subjecting or has subjected the child to abuse or neglect,
· That the other part is subjecting or has subjected the child to family violence or has perpetrated family violence against the other party (for the full definition of family violence see Section 4B of the Family Law Act)
· That the other party is making decisions that are contrary to the child’s best interests
· That the other party has a mental health condition that impairs their ability to make sound decisions for the child
· That the parties cannot effectively communicate with each other or come to agreements as to important decisions for the child
· It would otherwise be impractical for equal shared parental responsibility to be in place.
It is important to make sure that the parental responsibility Order that is made for your children is going to be in their best interests. There a lot of things to consider in deciding what parental responsibility Order will be in your children’s best interests, so it is important to obtain legal advice from a family law solicitor. You can make an appointment by calling (02) 4050 0330 or book an appointment online.