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What we all know as "child custody rights" has had a name change. The new buzz words are:

  • Shared Parental Responsibility
  • Residence
  • Contact

The overriding principle of the Court in making children's orders is "what is in the best interests of the children?"

You may have heard in the media that equal time with each parent is the law. This is incorrect. Each case is different and the Court will always look at the overriding principle - what is in the best interests of the children? - before making any children's orders.

The legislation preserves the child's rights to know and have a meaningful relationship with both their parents rather than the parents' rights to spend time with the child or children.

The court can make orders that the children spend time with other significant people such as grandparents.

There are 2 components in children's issues:

1. Shared Parental Responsibility

This means the parents share equally in making decisions for the children e.g. religion to be followed by the child, medical procedures, which school the child attends, and other long term issues.

One party is not permitted to make long term decisions unilaterally. Shared parental responisibility DOES NOT MEAN EQUAL TIME spent by each parent with the child.

The Court can order sole parental responsibility to one party in circumstances of child abuse, domestic violence and when one party does not wish to participate in the child's life.

2. Residence

This basically means where the child lives.

3. Contact

Basically this means the right of the child to have an ongoing relationship with the parent who does not have residence. The Court looks at a numbr of issues when determining what is in the child's best interests:

• primary considerations - the benefits of the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents and the need to protect the child from physical and psychological harm;
• views expressed by the child;
• the nature of the child's relationship with both parents;
• the effects of separation on the child from a parent;
• the parents' attitude to the child and to responsibilities of parenthood;
• domestic violence issues;
• payment or non-payment of child support; and
• other issues.

The number of nights a child spends with the other parent may be relevant also in assessing property issues and child support and this quite often leads to conflict when one parent wants to minimise payment of child support and presses equal time with the child to achieve this goal.

One of our friendly team is available for a free confidential telephone discussion about child custody rights. Please call us on (02) 9687 9322