Parenting after Separation

After a marriage or relationship breaks down it is important to ensure that children of the relationship are protected from all aspects of the break down. This can be difficult for some parents, particularly the parent who feels aggrieved by the break down. It is essential that those feelings do not impede parents agreeing on an appropriate post separation parenting arrangement for their children. In determining the appropriate post separation parenting arrangements for children, the Family Law Act stipulates that the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration.

What are the "best interests of a child"?

The Family Law Act states that a child’s best interests will invariably be met when parents ensure the following:

  • The right of the child to know both parents.
  • The right of the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
  • The right of the child to be protected from physical or psychological harm.
  • The right of a child to enjoy their culture (including the right to enjoy that culture with other people who share that culture).

What is the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility?

Under the Family Law Act there is a presumption that both parents will share jointly in making decisions relating to the long-term welfare of their children. This means making joint decisions on matters of health including medical treatment, education, religion and name so far as they relate to a child of the relationship.

This presumption does not apply where it is shown that there are issues of violence or abuse and in circumstances where it is not in the child’s best interests for parental responsibility to be shared.

What is equal shared care?

Extensive changes were made to the Family Law Act on 1 July 2006. These changes introduced the concept of "equal shared parental responsibility". There is a general misconception within the community that this means that children spend equal time with each parent. This is not correct. Rather, it means that the responsibility is equal, rather than the time spent.

It is important to look at the best interests of the child and practical considerations to determine whether a child spends equal time, or substantial and significant time with either parent.

For an arrangement where children spend equal time with each parent to be in the best interests of a child, the following indicia must be present:

  • Business-like relationship between the parents
  • Ability to communicate between the parents in relation to the children.
  • Parents living in close proximity.
  • Parents having similar parenting goals and objectives
  • Reasonably flexible attitudes
  • Both parents are able to facilitate the day to day requirements of the child such as extra-curricular activities, social activities etc.

If equal time is not appropriate, then parties must consider both parents having substantial and significant time with the child. The focus is that both parents are able to develop a meaningful relationship with their children and share important events.

Family dispute resolution.

Before commencing court proceedings relating to children, parents must meet certain requirements. In most cases, they are required to attend family dispute resolution sessions at Family Relationship Centres around NSW and make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute.

Parents generally are the best people to determine an appropriate parenting arrangement for their child. It is essential when discussing an appropriate parenting arrangement that parents focus solely on what arrangement will be in the best interest of the child and not on their own grievances with the other parent. Family dispute resolution can assist parents to keep their child in focus when discussing an appropriate post separation parenting arrangement.

For more information about post separation parenting contact  Family Law specialists Fiona HoadLauren Moscovis or Layla Doumit.




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