Parental responsibility is a legal term which has a specific meaning under the Family Law Act.
The Act states that:
Parental responsibility, in relation to a child, means all the duties, powers, responsibility and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children.
Both parents of a child under 18 have parental responsibility for the child.
The Court has the power under the Act to reallocate parental responsibility where it is in a child’s best interests to do so. This might mean a reallocation of all parental responsibility to one parent so that they have sole parental responsibility or only reallocating some aspects of parental responsibility so as to, for example, allow a parent to unilaterally enrol a child in school.
When making parenting orders the Court will presume that it is in a child’s best interests to make an order giving both parents equal shared parental responsibility, unless there is evidence of family violence.
When the Court makes an order for equal shared parental responsibility it means that the parents are required to make decisions about major long-term issues in relation to a child jointly. Parents do not need to consult each other and make decisions jointly about issues that are not major long-term issues.
Things that are major long-term issues include:
- Decisions about education such as choice of school.
- Decisions about which religion the child will practice if any.
- Decisions about major health issues such as long-term treatments and medications.
- Decisions about where the child will live if it means that the child will not be able to maintain a meaningful relationship with the other parent.
Things that are not major long-term issues include:
- What clothes the child will wear.
- What the child will eat for lunch.
- Minor medical issues.
Parental responsibility is an important aspect of any parenting plan or order. The Court will not make a final order for sole parental responsibility lightly, however if the parents are unable to make decisions jointly so much so that the child misses out on opportunities or is put at risk than the Court may make an order for sole parental responsibility.
If you have any questions regarding the above, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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