Unless there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent of the child, or person who lives with a parent of the child has engaged in family violence or abuse of the child or another child who, at the time, was a member of the parents family or that other person’s family, or perpetrated family violence, the court must apply a presumption that it is in the child’s best interests for the parents to have equal shared parental responsibility.
What is parental responsibility?
“Parental responsibility” means all of the duties and responsibilities that parents have in relation to their children. When the Family Law Act refers to “equal shared parental responsibility”, its referring to two parents sharing these responsibilities equally, so that both parents consult and jointly decide on significant, long term issues such as schooling, living arrangements, name changes and medical treatment.
If the court decides that it will apply the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, it must then consider whether spending equal time with both parents is in the best interests of the child. If the court decides that an order for equal time is not in the child’s best interests or not reasonably practicable, the Family Law Act says that it must then consider whether making an order for substantial and significant time to be spent with both parents is both in the child’s best interests and reasonably practicable.
Substantial and significant time is specifically described in the Family Law Act. It involves a child spending time with both parents on weekends, weekdays and holidays, so that each parent gets to be involved in the child’s daily routine and on occasions that are significant to the child.