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Sole Parental Responsibility

Are you divorced or separated from your former partner? Do you need to keep your children in a safe environment? We understand that at times it may seem difficult or impossible to maintain a healthy and/or positive relationship with your ex-partner when trying to co-parent following separation.

Parental responsibility pertains to the decision-making process regarding the long-term decisions of the children until such time as the children attain the age of eighteen (18) years.

What Does Sole Parental Responsibility Mean?

Sole parental responsibility means that one parent has the responsibility of making all long-term decisions in relation to the children of the relationship. This includes decisions pertaining to:

  • The children’s religious and cultural upbringing;
  • The children’s health;
  • The children’s education (both current and future); and
  • The children’s legal name.

Long term decisions of the children should not be confused with decisions about the day to day issues regarding the children.

How do you get sole parental responsibility?

Pursuant to the Family Law Act, the law will assume that it is in the children’s best interests for both parents to share parental responsibility regarding the children of the relationship.

As such, an Application will need to be made to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia with orders seeking sole parental responsibility. However, the Applicant will need to rebut the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. Such grounds to rebut the presumption include:

  • Whether one of the parents is subjecting the child or children to physical or mental abuse.
  • Whether the child or children have been subjected to family violence.
  • Whether one parent is making decisions contrary to the children’s best interests.
  • Whether one of the parents has a mental health illness that restricts them from making sound decisions pertaining to the children.

The Court may grant sole parental responsibility if there are concerns that the parents will not be able to communicate or agree on crucial decisions concerning the children. However, the paramount consideration for the Court when making parenting orders is whether the orders are considered in the children’s best interests.

Sole Parental Responsibility Vs. Shared Parental Responsibility

Sole parental responsibility means that only one parent is actively involved in crucial decision-making regarding the children. Alternatively, shared parental responsibility gives both parents equal rights to decide on the long-term decisions concerning the children of the relationship.

Do you still receive child support if you have sole parental responsibility?

Child support still applies even if you have sole parental responsibility. If you wish to discuss child support matters, please contact our office for a complimentary 15-minute consultation with one of our family lawyers.

Is shared parental responsibility the same as joint custody?

Shared parental responsibility is not the same as joint custody.

Shared parental responsibility means that even if the children do not live with both the parents, the parents are still expected to communicate and make a genuine effort to agree on major long-term decisions pertaining to the children. These decisions include:

  • The children’s legal names;
  • The children’s health, especially matters dealing with medical procedures;
  • The children’s cultural and religious upbringing;
  • The children’s future and current education;
  • The authorisation of their children’s travel documents; and
  • The children’s living arrangements.

To discuss parental responsibility in greater details, please contact our office to organise a complimentary 15-minute consultation with one of our family lawyers.

Now that we have split can the kids and I move back to the town where my family lives?

 You take a significant risk if you do this without the other parent’s agreement or a court order.  If you move and the other parent asks the court to decide where the children live you can be forced to move back or if you are not willing to do that the court can order that your children come back and live with the other parent. 

If you are considering moving, the best course of action is likely to involve making an application to the Federal Circuit Court for orders that allow you to move with the children.  The best possible advice if you find your self in this situation is to contact a Lawyer (preferably an accredited Family Law Specialist) to get advice about your specific circumstances.  

I have always looked after the kids whilst their dad went to work. Now we have separated their dad wants them for half the time.

This should happen only if this arrangement is in the best interests of your children.  The law does not say that this must happen.  It certainly isn’t a likely outcome if there is a high level of conflict between the parents or a history of domestic violence or if the children are very young.

On the other hand the days where most dads only see their children on alternate weekends and half school holidays tend to be a thing of the past.  Most often the solution lies somewhere in between.   

The kids don’t want to see their mother so should I force them?

If there is a court order that says your children should spend time with their mother then you will be in breach of that order if they don’t go.  Once there is a court order you are obliged to comply with the order’s terms.  If your children’s mother complains to the court that you have failed to comply with the orders you will find that the judge who deals with your case will be very unimpressed if this is the reason given.  It is not uncommon for the judge to ask (and none too gently) something like, “If the children decided they didn’t want to go to school would you think it was their decision to make?  No you wouldn’t.  This is no different.”

 However there may be reasons why your child is reluctant to spend time with the other parent.  If you find yourself in the position where you are wondering how you should respond to your child in these circumstances your lawyer can point you in the right direction as to what steps you should take. 

At what age can the kids decide who they live with?

There is no set age.  However once children get to their mid teens, depending on their maturity, court’s recognize that they have their own interests and may be strong willed about what they want to do.  Because developmentally they are becoming more independent of their parents a court would be less likely to define the amount of time a teenager spends with their mother or father and will let them “vote with their feet” and make that decision themselves.

How long will it take the court to finalise arrangements for my children? 

If you apply to a court to decide about parenting orders (arrangements for your children) it will usually take between nine months and eighteen months.  This is the time between filing your Application and the date of the final hearing.  However, you will need to keep in mind that after the final hearing it may take between one and six months before the Judge to make their decision. 

In reality most matters settle long before the final hearing date.  There are steps such as mediation built into the court process to help you reach a settlement.

Luke Cudmore

Principal Family Lawyer at Cudmore Legal Family Lawyers Brisbane Co. Luke is experienced in family law matters ranging from divorce to child custody. He is a skilled negotiator and strategist and fights zealously for his clients family law rights.
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