FAMILY LAW PARENTING MATTERS
DETERMINING PARENTING ARRANGEMENTS FOLLOWING SEPARATION OR DIVORCE
Equal shared parental responsibility
In 2006 the law saw the introduction of the presumption that both parents should share ‘Equal Shared Parental Responsibility’ for their children. This means that parents should have, where appropriate, the ability to both make together important decisions in relation to their children, for example decisions about health care and schooling.
This presumption DOES NOT mean that children will necessarily spend equal time with each of their parents. Instead, if a Court is satisfied that parents should have Equal Shared Parental Responsibility, equal time may then be considered. If Equal time is not appropriate the Court must then consider an order for significant or substantial time.
Fundamental legal principles relating to children’s matters
- Ensuring that children have the benefit of both of their parents having meaningful involvement in their lives;
- Ensuring children are protected from harm;
- Ensuring that children receive proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential;
- Ensuring that parents fulfil their duties and meet their responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of children;
- That children have the right to know and be cared for by both of their parents;
- That children have a right to spend regular time and communicate with their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development including grandparents and other relatives;
- That parents should share in the duties and responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their child/ children;
- That parents should agree about the future parenting of their children;
- That children have a right to enjoy their culture; and
- The Family Courts will only make orders that are considered to be in the “Best Interests” of children.
Child support is about ensuring the separated couples and their children enjoy a similar standard of living in both households.
The Child Support Agency (“the Agency”) is the Federal Government department that oversees who pays who and how much.
The formula relied upon by the agency is about the general needs of children divided between the parents based upon each parent’s income and how often the children are in that parent’s care.
Parents can have child support assessments reviewed by the Child Support Agency, the Social Security’s Appeal Tribunal and the Federal Circuit Court if they feel the assessment is wrong.
Parents can also make binding private agreements that bypass the Agency in certain circumstances.
Binding Child Support Agreements (“agreements”) enable parents to agree how much (if any) child support is paid, and what it is applied to. Parents can agree that the payer of child support pay for things like private school fees, car payments, mortgage repayments, extra-curricular activities and private health cover.
These very important agreements should not be entered into without proper legal advice. A lawyer for each parent must execute a certificate of having given a parent independent legal advice for the agreement to be binding.
Once signed, the agreements are usually registered with the Agency.