Parental Responsibility

Understanding Parental Responsibility in Australia

A short video on the changes to the presumption of shared parental responsibility that came into effect on the 6th May 2024 in the Family Law Act 1975 in Australia.

Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Joanne Law and I want to help you understand parental responsibility in Australia. The Family Law Act used to say when making a parenting order in relation to a child, the court must apply a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child for the child’s parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child.

That’s proved to be a problem. Even though Shared Parental Responsibility doesn’t say equal time, some people thought it did. And also, presuming anything doesn’t really work, presuming didn’t prioritise safety, and some children were put at risk due to family violence because parents were forced to try and make joint decisions.

When it just wasn’t possible. , let’s just back up. What is parental responsibility? According to the Family Law Act, it’s all duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority, which by law parents have in relation to their children. Each of the parents of a child who is not 18 has parental responsibility for the child.

So by removing the presumption of shared parental responsibility, nothing’s really changed. And it won’t unless there’s a reason to change. Parental responsibility can be changed by a parenting order made by the family court. A child protection intervention, or order, or a parenting plan made by the parents.

And that’s often done with the help of a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. So why would you change parental responsibility? Usually it’s when parents can’t agree about major long term issues, such as where the children live, their health, or their education. So the Family Law Act has had the presumption of shared parental responsibility removed, but it’s had added If it’s safe to do so, and subject to any court orders, the parents of a child who is not yet 18 are encouraged to consult each other about major long term issues in relation to the child, and in doing so, have regard to the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.

So the most important thing when you’re deciding parenting for your child, To make this clearer, Section 61 DAA of the Family Law Act talks about joint or solo long term decision making. A parenting order can allocate sole responsibility for decision making about some or all major long term issues. So, for example, it may be around education or health that one parent gets to make the decision.

It also makes clear that joint decision making is a requirement to consult with each other and make a genuine effort to come to a joint decision. Mentioned best interest of the child. The definition of that has changed as well. It’s now made up of six factors. Number one, the safety of, for the child and each person who has cared for the child from family violence.

abuse, neglect, or other harm. Any views expressed by the child, the developmental, psychological, emotional, and cultural needs of the child, the capacity of each person with parental responsibility to provide for the child’s developmental, psychological, emotional, and cultural needs, The benefits of the child being able to have a relationship with the child’s parents and other people who are significant to the child, where it’s safe to do so, and anything else that’s relevant to the particular circumstances of the child.

If the child’s also an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, then there’s another consideration about the benefits for them of connection to family and culture. The key thing about this is it’s really focused on the safety of the child and the capacity of the parents to put the child’s needs first.

I’m a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and in Family Dispute Resolution and also in the court, there’s a really big focus on identifying issues around family violence. Just to be clear, family violence is violent. threatening or other behavior by a person that coerces or controls a member of the family or causes the family member to be fearful.

A child’s exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence. So if you’re trashing the house and the child’s seeing it, they’re being exposed to family violence. What is really important is recognizing that is not okay, it’s not acceptable in Australia to be forcing a family member and whether that’s someone who’s got parental responsibility or who’s caring for the child for example, a grandparent.

Judges, registrars, and family dispute resolution practitioners are all responsible for looking out for family violence and responding appropriately. So what does it all mean? We hope that these changes to the presumptions around parental responsibility will provide better protection from family violence and result in less harm to kids from parental conflict.

If you can’t agree about long term decisions Use family dispute resolution to help you discuss the issues and consider your child’s best interest. Don’t let your anger and your disappointment about the breakup of your relationship steal your child’s happiness. I know it might seem like it’s impossible, but perhaps it’s not.

Thank you in advance for being responsible parents. If you do need help with long term decision making, You can contact Interact support. We provide an online family dispute resolution service throughout Australia or your local family dispute resolution service or independent practitioner.

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