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Parental Responsibility and Decision Making for Children

Parental responsibility is defined under the Family Law Act as all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to their children.

In reality it often encompasses major long term decision making for issues such as the child’s name, health, education, culture and religion.  Parental responsibility is not the same as deciding who a child lives or spends time with.

By default, and absent a parenting order made by the Court, each parent has parental responsibility for a child of the relationship until the child reaches the age of 18.  A breakdown in the relationship, or one of the parents starting a new relationship, does not in itself affect parental responsibility.

If parents do separate and ask the Court to intervene, the ‘starting point’ is that parents ought to consult each other concerning major issues affecting the children.  As such, there is a presumption under the Family Law Act that it is in the child’s best interests for his or her parents to have equal shared parental responsibility, however this presumption may not apply if there have been incidents of family violence or child abuse.  Equal shared parental responsibility requires that the parents make decisions about major long term issues for the children jointly, however it does not cover ‘day-to-day’ decision making.

If you have questions about parental responsibility please contact a member of our Separation, Family and Relationships Team.

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