According to the Australian Family Law Act of 1975, parental responsibility refers to the duties, power, and authority parents have regarding their child, under the law. These duties stand until the child turns 18. It entails the responsibility to make decisions that affect long-term issues. These issues include where the child lives, education, medical issues and religious and cultural upbringing.
Naturally, each parent has the right to make any of these decisions without consulting the other. This obligation does not depend on whether the parents are together or not. It is not lost even after a divorce.
It changes after a divorce, however. As stated by the 2006 amendment of the Australian Family Law Act, equal shared parental responsibility is presumed after a divorce. This means that separated parents are ordered by the court to practice it. This is, of course, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the best interests of the child.
This does not mean equal time spent with the child or equal custody.
Most times the parents agree on an arrangement that will work best for the child. If they are unable to come to an agreement, the issue will be taken to the Court. The Court will consider ordering equal time if it is reasonably practicable and aligns with the child’s best interests. If it isn’t, the Court will reevaluate practicability and the child’s best interests, and will order a suitable arrangement for custody.
Equal Shared Parental Responsibility
This is what is automatically presumed by law to be best for the child. In equal shared parental responsibility, every important decision concerning the child has to be a joint one. This is what differentiates it from natural parental responsibility. The parents have to consult each other on certain paramount decisions, regarding the child’s religion, health, education, security, social interactions, and such like. They have to make genuine efforts to agree on what’s best for the child. Trivial day-to-day decisions can be made independently of the other parent.
Solo Parental Responsibility
Sometimes there might be very good reasons to believe that a particular parent is incapable of being a responsible parent. A good reason that the court considers is violence or abuse directed towards the child or other family members. The parent that wants sole parental responsibility has to compile evidence and make their case before the Court. In a case where it is apparent that it is in the child’s best interests though, the court orders it right away.
In some cases, It is granted to a parent to make certain decisions, but not others. For example, a parent might be allowed to make unilateral decisions on education and health of the child only.
Solo parental responsibility does not automatically mean solo custody of the child.
The Australian Family Law Act is more centred around the child’s interests than it is around the parent’s. Any decisions the Court makes about custody or parental responsibility, depends heavily on what works best for the child.