5 Things Recently Separated Parents Need to Know About Child Custody

By HHG Legal Group

1. Legal terminology

Following legislative change to Australian family law in 2007, commonly used terms such as “child custody”, “child access”, “sole custody”, “joint custody” and “visitation” are no longer in use.

Throughout the process of determining custody of the child, terms such as “lives with”, “spends time with”, “primary parent” and “primary carer” will be used in place of the previous expressions.

2. Best interests of the child

The Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) governs family law in Australia.  It does not address parental ‘rights’ – in fact, parents do not have ‘rights’ as such.

Instead, the legislation focuses on each parent’s responsibility to their child so to prioritise the child’s best interests over that of parents. 

3. Parental responsibility is equally shared

The Act presumes both parents are presented with equal parental responsibility in their decision making role for serious long-term considerations such as education, religious upbringing medical treatment, where a child lives and changes to their name.

The presumption of equal parents’ responsibility will not apply where there is a risk to the child or children of family violence.

Importantly, the concept of equal shared parental responsibility does not constitute any right to equal time spent with the child

4. Allocation of time spent with the child

The amount of time each parent may spend with the child is determined by;

a)    An agreed arrangement negotiated through Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), a compulsory process for child custody matters. The Act requires both parents to make a genuine effort to come to an agreement.

Or where FDR fails,

b)    A court will consider what time arrangement suits the best interests of the child, make a determination, and issue orders.

5. Support for children and parents

The following services provide support during this difficult time;

a)    The Family Relationship Advice Line

Phone 1800 050 321

Website 

b)    Family Relationships Hotline

Phone 1800 050 321

Website

c)    Kids Helpline

Phone 1800 55 1800

This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or contact reception@hhg.com.au.