Home » Family Law and Divorce » Understanding Child Custody Family Law in Australia

It’s always unfortunate whenever a family experiences certain difficulties that would require the law to step in and determine the custodial rights of both parents. Because any legal proceedings involving child custody matters tend to be drawn out and complicated, having a good understanding of your parental rights as decreed by Australian law can help you more easily navigate such proceedings. This will also allow you to make the right decisions for you and your child.

To help you in this regard, the following are condensed versions of the more relevant aspects of Australian child custody family law. Besides this, we also recommend that you employ the services of a competent team of family lawyers Perth residents can trust.

What are the rights of the child as decreed by Australian law?

As decreed by Australian law, specifically the Family Law Act 1975, a child has the right to enjoy a meaningful relationship with their parents. This means that the child’s parents should be closely involved in their life and be a significant presence in their continuing growth. At the same time, the child also enjoys the right to be protected from harm as much as possible. Should both rights end up conflicting with one other, such as in the event of parental separation and similar circumstances, the court is required by law to give greater weight to the continuous observation of the second right.

What are my legal responsibilities as a parent when my spouse and I have separated?

When the parents of a child under the age of 18 undergo separation, they continue to share mutual parental responsibilities for their child. This means that you and your spouse both share the responsibility for making the major decisions that can affect the physical health, mental health, education, spirituality, and overall development of your child. Such decisions can range from deciding where your child attends school to what kind of treatments they should undergo. This shared responsibility is officially known as ‘Equal Shared Parental Responsibility’.

With that said, should the courts find that your child’s right to be protected from harm is compromised due to you or your spouse’s continued involvement in their life, then this shared parental responsibility may be stripped from one or both of you.

Also, do note that Equal Shared Parental Responsibility applies regardless of the parents’ relationship or marital status. This means that even in the absence of a legally binding marriage, the shared responsibility is still active and will be so until the courts decide otherwise.

What does Australian Child Custody Family Law say about parenting time after separation?

Currently, no specific law dictates how parenting time, or the time that the child spends with each specific parent, should be arranged. Moreover, no rule dictates that the child should spend an equal amount of time with each parent, only that the two cardinal rights of children be upheld.

In the absence of any such guidelines, it is instead recommended that you and your spouse come to a mutual agreement on how much time your child will spend with either of you, as well as other matters involving their ongoing rearing, such as their living accommodations. If both of you can amicably agree on the disposition of your child during and after separation, then the court does not need to be involved.

This parental agreement can be in the form of an oral or written agreement. You can also have this agreement be formally recognized by the courts in what is known as a consent order. A consent order ensures that both parents will always be legally compelled to abide by what was agreed upon in the consent order. This acts as a legal safeguard against scenarios where one parent abruptly contests a specific agreement about their child down the line.

If you can’t reach an agreement with your spouse in the ongoing care of your child, then either of you can ask the court for mediation by requesting for a parenting order. A parenting order is a specific parenting decision that is judged applicable by the courts and enforced by law. This parenting decision could be anything from prohibiting your spouse from denigrating you while talking to your child or forbidding a parent’s contact with the child to ensure their safety.

As parenting orders are judged accordingly by the courts, it is in your best interests to hire a lawyer with experience in child custody family law. Family mediation services may also be involved when both parents are truly unable to reach a mutually agreeable compromise.

What are my financial responsibilities to my child?

Both you and your spouse are legally compelled to support your child financially after separation. This applies regardless of which parent your child is living with at the time. Again, there are no mandatory or compulsory rules that govern how much a specific parent provides in child support. Parents are therefore encouraged to come to an agreement on their own.

However, if you and your spouse are unable to do so, then you can apply for a child support assessment from the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services. This assessment will assist you and your spouse in coming to a formal agreement on the amount, frequency, and method of child support. Moreover, the courts can also issue an order to compel either parent to provide child support if the situation warrants, such as when the child has a disability.

Having a solid understanding of child custody family law benefits you and your child

Legal proceedings involving the custody of your child, especially after separation, can be a stressful ordeal for all parties. However, by being aware of your important rights and obligations under Australian child custody family law, as well as utilising the service of capable legal counsel, you can help make the process more efficient and avoid potential hardships. You’ll also be able to make the right decisions for your child, which can contribute meaningfully to their adjustment during such a period of change in their life.

 

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