Separation can be a very difficult time and you may find yourself stressed and upset. This is not only true for separating parents but also for your children.
It can be very confusing for children to understand what is going on when parties separate. They may not understand why one parent is no longer living at home. They may witness arguments and disagreements between their parents. Children sometimes feel the need to choose a side.
It is important to protect children from the fallout from the relationship breakdown. Studies show that children who witness multiple arguments or overhear one parent constantly denigrating the other are at a higher risk of anxiety and depression than their peers.
The Court must have the child’s best interest as the paramount consideration, not the best interests of the separating parties.
The Family Law Act 1975 provides that the children have a right to know and spend time with both of their parents.
The Act also presumes that it is in a child’s best interest for their parents to have “equal shared parenting responsibility”.
The term “equal shared parental responsibility” means that both parents are to share decision making about long term major decisions such as;
- Changing the childrens’ name;
- Choosing a religion;
- Working out where the children will attend school;
- Any medical or dental decisions;
- Any change to the children’s living arrangements.
The Court may not make orders for equal shared parenting responsibility if there has been family violence or child abuse committed by one of the parties.
The alternative to equal shared parental responsibility is an order for sole parental responsibility where one parent makes all of the major long-term decisions for the child/ren.
When equal shared parental responsibility is ordered the Court must also consider whether an “equal shared care” arrangement is appropriate.
Shared care is where the parties spend equal time with the child/ren such as a weekabout arrangement.
In order for a shared care arrangement to work, there must be a high level of cooperation and communication between the parents.
We can provide you with tailored advice in relation to managing the legal aspects of your separation and to help guide you through the process. We can also assist you to understand how a court may determine what is in the best interests of your child/ren and help advise you as to whether you should apply for sole parental responsibility or equal shared parental responsibility.
Please feel free to contact us to make an appointment with our experienced family lawyer, Caroline Granger, to discuss how we can assist you. Caroline is available to meet with you in either our Bendigo or Castlemaine offices.