A relationship breakdown can be a tumultuous time for all involved, and the stress and tension can be compounded when children are involved.
Contrary to popular belief, equal time spent with any children of the relationship is not an automatic right of either parent and any arrangement that cannot be agreed upon in a civil manner will need to be determined by a Court Order.
If you are a parent who is seeking equal shared parental responsibility of your child or children, you will need to consider the following and speak to a family lawyer in Cairns.
What The Court Takes Into Consideration
The Court will decide what is best for the child or children by considering the facts of the whole situation. From there, it will determine what would be in the best interests of the child or children and whether spending equal time with each of the parents can be reasonably undertaken.
The primary considerations for a court when determining what is in a child’s best interests are:
- the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents; and
- the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.
Other factors that will be taken into account, include:
- the views expressed by the child, including anything the court considers relevant to the weight it should give the child’s views;
- the child’s relationship with each parent and other persons;
- the age, maturity, lifestyle and background of the child;
- the proximity of each parent’s home to the other’s and the proximity to other aspects of the child or children’s lives, such as their school or extracurricular commitments;
- how disruptive an equal time arrangement would be to the child or children’s schooling or their other commitments;
- the capacity of each of the parents to properly provide for the child or children under an equal time arrangement;
- the impact that an equal time arrangement would have on the child or children;
- the current and future capacity of the parents to resolve any conflicts regarding the upbringing of the child or children in a civil manner; and
- any other issues the Court deems relevant to the wellbeing of the child or children.
The Court’s Decision
If the Court believes that it is in the best interests of the child or children and the parents possess the capacity to undertake such an arrangement then the Court will make an Order to allow the child or children to spend an equal amount of time with each of their parents.
If the Court does not believe that an equal time arrangement can be facilitated in the best interests of the child or children it may decide against making an Order for equal time, however, it may still make an Order that allows the child to spend ‘substantial and significant time’ with the parent who they are not living with.
The Family Law Act sets out that a child or children can only spend ‘substantial and significant time’ with one parent if:
- it is in the best interests of the child; and
- it is reasonably practicable to do so.
‘Significant and substantial time’ is classified in the Family Law Act as time spent with a parent that includes “both days that fall on weekends and holidays, and days that do not fall on weekends or holidays.”
‘Significant and substantial time’, although not equal time, exists to allow both parents to be involved in all aspects of care and raising their child or children. This benefits both the parent and the child or children and during ‘significant and substantial time’ the parent is allowed to be involved in
- the child’s daily routine;
- occasions and events that are of particular significance to the child; and
- occasions and events that are of special significance to the parent.
These activities are not limited, and the Court may make other determinations about the ‘substantial and significant’ time spent with a parent.
If you have separated from the parent of your child or children and require advice about how to enter into an equal time arrangement with them, our experienced family lawyers in Cairns can help.