Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility in relation to a child means all the duties, powers and responsibilities and authority, which, by law, parents have in relation to a child.

Unless and until a parenting Order is made which affects parental responsibility, each of the parents of a child who is not yet 18 has parental responsibility for a child. Accordingly, each parent is entitled to make decisions for the care and welfare of the child, including decisions about the child’s education and health.

There is a presumption in the Family Law Act that it is in the child’s best interests for parents to exercise equal shared parental responsibility. That requires each of the child’s parents to consult with and reach agreement in respect of any decision of a major long term nature in respect of a child. Decisions of a major long term nature are taken to include issues about the care, welfare and development of a child of a long term nature, including but not limited to:

  • The child’s education
  • The child’s religious and cultural upbringing
  • The child’s health
  • The child’s name
  • Any changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent

In cases of high conflict or in circumstances where a parent has not shown an active role in making decisions of that nature in the past, the Court may allocate parental responsibility solely to one parent. In that case, that parent would have the sole and exclusive ability to make decisions of a major long term nature in respect of the child without consulting with nor reaching agreement with the other parent.

It is important that when you are negotiating with your former partner or seeking Orders from the Court, that you consider how decisions of this nature will be made in the future in order to reduce the likelihood of conflict or further litigation in the event that a decision is required to be made.

If you are concerned that your former partner is making decisions of this nature without consulting you or in direct contradiction with what you think is in the child’s best interests, it is important that you act immediately and are not seen, by virtue of your delay, to be acquiescing to those decisions. You should contact us immediately to discuss your options.