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 arrangements for children,
the key concepts are who a child "lives with", who a
child "spends time with", who is the primary carer and
who has parental responsibility for the child/children.
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 for their children and so prioritises the
child's best interests over all other considerations.
Parental responsibility is equally shared, unless this
places a child at risk
The Act presumes that it will be in children's best
interests for both parents to have equal shared parental
responsibility for the children, unless there is a risk to the
children of such an arrangement. Equal shared parental
responsibility has a specific meaning and has no relationship to
the amount of time each parent spends with the children. Equal
shared parental responsibility means that both parents make major
long term decisions regarding the children jointly. These decisions
specifically relate to education, religious and cultural issues,
serious medical treatment, where a child lives and changes to their
How is the time the child spends with each parent
The amount of time the child spends with a parent is determined
Parents coming to agreement between themselves, or with the
assistance of a mediator or FDR practitioner, and entering either a
Parenting Plan or Consent Orders; or
If parents are unable to come to agreement a parent can make
application to the Family Court for interim and final parenting
Support for children and parents
The following services provide support during this difficult
Sect.117 can deal with false statements and knowingly making false allegations of violence could justify a costs order.
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