Parental responsibility is the term used in Australia for the “duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children”. Under the Family Law Act both parents share parental responsibility for their children, but this can be altered by a court order.
If an order provides for sole parental responsibility, that means one parent (or person) has the authority to solely exercise major decision making about their children. It is also possible to obtain sole parental responsibility for only parts of parental responsibility, such as about major medical issues or education.
It can be very difficult to get an order from the Court for sole parental responsibility. The Court must consider the best interests of the children as the paramount consideration, and in determining the best interests the Court must consider a range of factors.
The primary two such factors are the right of children to have a meaningful relationship with their parents, and the need to protect the children from harm (psychological or physical). Greater weight is given to the latter if there is a conflict.
You can only get sole parental responsibility by Court order. That order can be made by agreement or by a judicial officer. It is rare for a parent to agree to the other having sole parental responsibility, and so you are likely to need to go to Court to have your case determined.
The Court will weigh up the evidence presented, and apply the best interests of the child principles to determine if it will order sole parental responsibility.
In Australia there is no legal concept of custody (other than in relation to Hague Convention proceedings). But sole custody is commonly thought of as the child living with a parent and that parent having full decision making authority about the child.
So sole parental responsibility differs from this common concept in that living arrangements are separate from parental responsibility. In theory (but unlikely in practice) it is possible for a child to live with one parent but the other parent to have sole parental responsibility.
If you want to run through your personal situation, give our Family Law firm a call to discuss. It is always advisable to discuss this with a family lawyer and we can assess the likelyhood of such a court order. Alternatively, if you find that your ex-partner is trying to apply for sole parental responsibility, then you may need to act quickly! Call SBFamilyLawyers now.