There is a lot of public misconception about what Sole Parental Responsibility is and whether it is sole custody. It is essential to understand this key term, especially if you are trying to work through your parenting after separation or if you find yourself before the Court.
What does parental responsibility involve?
Parental responsibility covers all the obligations a parent has in relation to their child’s welfare.These responsibilities include:
- Providing food and shelter;
- Providing for their education and religious needs;
- Taking care of their medical needs;
- Ensuring their safety.
After a divorce, the parental dynamic changes. Parents must organise arrangements that continue to satisfy their parental responsibilities. There are various ways this can work out.
The Family Law Act presumes that maintaining a relationship with both parents is in the child’s best interest. The Court expects both parents to maintain equal shared parental responsibility. While equal responsibility doesn’t automatically equate to equal time shared with the child, it does require both parents to share in the decision-making for the child’s welfare and upbringing.
However, there may be circumstances where it’s inappropriate for there to be equal shared parental responsibility and the other parent may want to apply for sole parental responsibility in this case.
Sole parental responsibility
Sole parental responsibility gives one parent decision-making power over major decisions for a child. The parent with sole parental responsibility usually has the ability to make all of the long-term decisions for a child, such as significant health decisions, decisions about education and religion and a child’s name. This doesn’t mean the other parent can’t spend time with their child.
The family law framework strongly believes children should receive input from the care of both parents and will only grant sole parental responsibility in exceptional circumstances.
Reasons for sole parental responsibility
Making a decision that one parent has sole parental responsibility is a serious matter. The Court will only grant sole responsibility once it is convinced this arrangement is in the child’s best interests, such as when the child has or is experiencing abuse, neglect or family violence. The Court will also consider the order when a parent has experienced such physical or emotional harm that it would not be in a child’s best interest to compel that parent to regularly consult with or make decisions about the child with the perpetrator of that harm.
While the Court presumes that it will be in a child’s best interests for parents to have equal shared parental responsibility, the child’s health and safety from physical and psychological harm trumps all other considerations. The Court may take evidence of violent or abusive behaviour by one parent towards the child as grounds to make an order for sole parental responsibility.
Applying for sole parental responsibility
Parenting arrangements are formalised through court orders. If the arrangement is consensual, you can jointly apply for a consent order. However, needing one parent to relinquish their ability to make decisions about their children generally requires a parenting order. Parents don’t often willingly give up that role.
When applying for parenting orders, the parent seeking sole responsibility should set out the reasons for their request in their affidavit. Include as much evidence as possible to back up the request. Evidence can include:
- Police reports involving domestic violence;
- Medical reports showing harm the child has experienced;
- Witness statements about the behaviour of the parents;
- Evidence showing a complete communication breakdown between parents;
- Existing court orders;
- Any other evidence that demonstrates shared parenting is against the child’s best interests.
If you satisfy the court that sole parental responsibility is necessary for the child’s welfare, the Court will likely grant a parenting order establishing that arrangement.
Get legal advice
Seeking a parenting order is not an easy process, especially if you are requesting sole parental responsibility, which is rarely granted. Get legal advice about your options and the best course of action. Life Law Solutions has extensive experience with parenting disputes. Contact our team today so we can help get the best outcome for you and your family.