The Family Law Act was amended in 2006 to make provision for a concept called “Equal Shared Parental Responsibility”. Many separating parents believe that this amendment to the Act means that children with separated parents should be, by law, spending equal time with each of their parents. This is a common family law myth.
The concept of equal shared parental responsibility is about decision-making in relation to long term issues in a child’s life, such as where they will live, what religion they will practice, what medical treatment they may or may not receive, what name they will be known by and what schools they will go to.
The Court will not make an order for equal shared parental responsibility if it is satisfied that this is not a child’s best interests.
The Family Law Act provides that if the Court is satisfied that parents should have equal shared parental responsibility, the Court must then give consideration to:
a. whether the child spending equal time with each of the parents would be in the child’s best interests; and
b. whether the child spending equal time with each of the parents is reasonably practicable, if the answer to both of these questions is yes, the Court must consider making an order for the child to spend equal time with the parents.
The important thing to remember about the concepts of equal time and substantial and significant time is that even if all of the boxes are ticked, there is no obligation on the Court to make an order for either. The Court is simply required to consider whether it is appropriate to make such Orders. In considering whether it is appropriate to make such Orders, the overriding consideration for the Court is whether proposed parenting arrangements are in a child’s best interests.