If a child is less than 18 years of age then each parent has parental responsibility for that child. This is the case before a Court makes Orders regarding this issue. Once a court Order is made it might be the case that the parents share the responsibility equally or one parent is allocated that responsibility over the other depending on the circumstances of your family.

Parental responsibility is defined as, “all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children.”

This responsibility is divided into “day to day” decisions and “long term decisions”. Day to day decision includes decisions such as what your child will eat during the day, what clothes they will wear and what activities they might undertake each day. Once an Order is made by the Court you no long need to consult with the other parent on day to day issues.

Long term decision are the bigger decisions affecting a child’s life such as where they live, what religion they pursue, what name the child is known by and decisions regarding health.

There is a presumption that Parental Responsibility will apply equally to both parents. This requires the parents to consult with each other and to make decisions jointly about their children. They must make a genuine effort to come to a joint decision about issues affecting their children.

This presumption can be rebutted however, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent or person living with the child has engaged in abuse or family violence. In those circumstances a court may make an order to allocate responsibility to one parent in order to shield the children from any ongoing conflict and further violence. This is not about the punishment of parents but the protection of children and victims of domestic violence.

For couples going through a separation one of the first matters that need to be dealt with is the arrangements you put into place for your children. It is important for the welfare of your children to put aside the emotions you may be feeling and focus on the arrangements for your children that will result in the best outcomes for your children.

If you should require advice on this issue or any other family law matter please feel free to contact Kathy Matri on 021 4322 0251.