A question that I am frequently asked as a family lawyers is “What is equal shared parental responsibility?” and does that mean “equal shared care?”.
The answer in a nutshell is no, however it does not exclude the possibility of equal time with both parents occurring if certain factors can be satisfied.
Equal shared parental responsibility (ESPR) is what the Court presumes that all parents have for their biological children from the moment parties separate. It relates to the parents’ sharing in the decision making process for all major long-term issues in the child’s life (for example, education, medical treatment, the child’s name, etc.). ESPR can only be changed by Orders made by the Court – either by consent or through litigation. This usually occurs in circumstances when the Court is satisfied that ESPR is not consistent with a child’s best interests.
Considering equal shared care or time is a natural flow-on of ESPR. However, it is not an automatic consequence. For the Court to contemplate whether equal shared care or time is appropriate, the Court must consider the following:
- Whether the child spending equal time with each of the parents would be in the best interests of the child; and
- Whether the child spending equal time with each of the parents is reasonably practicable.
When contemplating these factors, the Court needs to take into consideration the distance between each of the child’s parent’s houses and the child’s school, the ability for each parent to commit to having the child live with them on an equal basis (including any work commitments of the parents), the attitude that both parents have to each other and the ability of both parents to co-parent civilly and amicably.
A shared care arrangement has the potential to support the child in giving them the opportunity to maintain close and loving relations with both parents. It can also allow for parents to pursue their own careers and interests when the child is with the other parent. This in turn can have a positive impact on the parenting skills of the parent.
Alternatively, an equal shared care or time arrangement can potentially impact negatively on the child and the parents. This can occur in circumstances where the transitions between households are not smooth and cooperative, or where there are radically different methods of parenting in either household, causing confusion and instability for the child.
If equal shared care or time is not considered by the Court to be in the best interests of the child and reasonably practicable, then the Court must consider whether the child spending substantial and significant time with each of the parents is more appropriate. The Court will consider, amongst other things, the age of the child, the parents’ circumstances and the distance between households. Again, the paramount consideration for the Court will be what arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Importantly, substantial and significant time should allow parents time to be involved in the daily routines of the child, as well as significant events, and involve a mixture (where reasonably practicable) of holidays and non-holidays, weekends and weekdays.
Family law has the potential to craft creative bespoke Orders particular to each and every separated family’s circumstances. How parenting arrangements will look for your child after separation is certainly one of the most important decisions a parent can be faced with. Finding a family lawyer you trust can help you to consider what arrangements will be in the best interests of your child moving forward.
Contact our team of experienced family law solicitors Toowoomba today to discuss what sort of arrangement might be in the best interests of your children.