The Family Law Act was originally passed in 1975 but recently a number of amendments have been made. One of the key changes is the emphasis on the principle of shared parenting responsibility.
Shared parenting responsibility means that both parents have an equal role in making decisions about important issues that affect their children such as education, health and religion regardless, of who the children live with and how much time they spend with each parent.
This does not necessarily mean that children should spend equal time with both parents although it can be considered as an option for some families. An equal time arrangement only works under specific circumstances. The most important aspect to consider is the co-parenting relationship. Research shows that equal time works if parents have a co-operative co-parenting relationship. If the co-parenting relationship is conflictual your children will find an equal time arrangement not only difficult but harmful. For obvious reasons an equal time arrangement works if parents live within close geographical proximity. Equal time is not recommended for very young children.
Shared parenting responsibility is more likely to occur if children spend time with each parent which enables them to be involved in the day to day routine of the children’s lives like homework, transport to school and extra curricular activities, such as doctor/dentist/hairdressing appointments, and shopping for clothes and gifts when needed.
For shared parenting to work both parents need to be willing to communicate with each other about their children’s lives.
In carrying out shared parenting responsibility it can be helpful if you:-
- Focus on what your children need from you rather than what you want or what you think you have a right to
- Remember - the better your relationship with the other parent the easier it is for your children.
- Do not try to sort things out when you are tired, stressed, hurt, or angry.
- Respect the other parent’s privacy.
- Be polite and respectful to the other parent even if you do not feel like it.
Relationships Australia, through our Family Dispute Resolution Service, can assist you to develop parenting plans after separation that incorporates the principle of shared parenting responsibility. The Parenting Orders Program can assist parents to improve their co-parenting relationship and focus on the children’s best interests. For further information call 1300 364 277.