What does Equal Shared Parental Responsibility mean?
Equal shared parental responsibility means that both parents must consult each other and make a genuine effort to come to an agreement about long term issues such as the child’s education, religion and medical procedures.
Do both parents always get equal time?
No. When deciding what arrangements to put into place for children, the Family Court’s paramount consideration is what is in the best interests of the children. This may or may not mean spending equal time with both parents and depends entirely on the circumstances of each individual case.
How does the court work out what is in a child’s best interests?
The Family Law Act 1975 sets out in section 60CC the criteria which the Court must take into account when determining what is in a child’s best interests. It includes things such as the benefit to the child in having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, the willingness of each parent to facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent and the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm.
At what age will the children’s wishes be taken into account when determining parenting arrangements?
There is no set age for when a child’s wishes will be taken into account. The weight which the Court will give to a child’s wishes will depend on the understanding and maturity of the individual child.
Children are not permitted to give evidence in the Family Court. Their views can be put forward in a Family Report, a document prepared by a Family Consultant to assist the court in determining appropriate arrangements for children.
If the child has attended any psychologists or counselors it is sometimes possible to issue a Subpoena for their records to put the child’s wishes or views before the Court.
Can someone other than a parent obtain a parenting order?
Yes. A grandparent or another person concerned with the child’s care, welfare and development may make an application to the Court for a parenting order.
Can I take my child interstate or overseas?
You must have the consent of either the other parent or the court to relocate a child to an area which makes it more difficult for the other parent to spend time with the child. This means that if both parents live in the same town, you cannot relocate to even another town in the same state without consent.
If you were to relocate without consent and there are no Court Orders in place, the other parent can make an application to the Court seeking that the child be returned. Such applications are generally successful, at least in the first instance.
If you relocate with a child contrary to Court Orders, you may be found to have breached the Orders and the Court may impose fines and/or criminal penalties, as well as ordering the return of the child.
How is child support calculated? Do I have to go through CSA?
Child support is calculated according to a formula set out in legislation.
There is a calculator on the Child Support Agency website which will calculate your child support assessment using this formula. CSA will only issue an assessment if one of the parents makes an application for them to do so.
The amount of child support payable can also be agreed between the parties. This agreement can then be formalized by way of a limited or binding Child Support Agreement. These agreements can be complex and, particularly in the case of a Binding Agreement, you must receive legal advice for the agreement to be effective.
Entering into a child support agreement which is not in line with the amount of child support you would receive under an assessment may affect your Centrelink entitlements.
See our fact sheet on Child Support Agreements for more information.