Child Custody In Divorce & Separation — Australia

If you or your spouse have decided to end your marriage or de facto relationship, one of the many decisions you’ll have to make is around your children’s custody and welfare. Child custody following a separation or divorce can be one of the most emotionally intense experiences couples must go through, as both parties just want the best for their children. It can also be one of the most confusing aspects of divorce. 

In this article, we’ll explore all factors that determine child custody arrangements and answer some commonly asked questions, like who gets custody of a child in a divorce in Australia?

Who gets custody of a child in a divorce in Australia?

There’s a common misconception in Australia that the courts tend to favour the mother if asked to determine a child’s living arrangements. Should there be no risk of violence or abuse, both parents are entitled to foster a loving and nurturing relationship with their children and have a say in major decisions concerning the child’s welfare.

For this to occur, parents should attempt to genuinely communicate and amicably make decisions together for their child’s living arrangements without needing a Court’s involvement during their divorce. Not only can going to Court be a costly and lengthy endeavour, but it can also cause major emotional distress for you and your children.

Should you and your spouse be unable to make decisions amicably and want to avoid Court, Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer Parenting Coordination as part of our legal services. This child-focused dispute resolution procedure allows parents to peacefully transition from partners to co-parents. We work with you and your spouse to facilitate conversations surrounding your child’s education, health management and organising time spent with both parents. 

Determining the best interests of the child

According to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, so long as there are no safety risks present, the Court’s decision for child custody will be based on the best arrangement where: 

  • The child can continue loving and meaningful relationships with both parents. 
  • Both parents continue to share responsibility for the child.

That said, even if you and your partner can be courteous with each other, it’s important to remember that child custody isn’t always a 50/50 split — and in more than most cases, won’t be. 

The court will base its decision on the child’s best interest. For instance, if the child needs to stay with the parent who lives closer to their school, the child has special needs or one of the child’s parents has demanding work commitments. 

Child custody rights for mothers and fathers

It’s natural for a mother or father to want to explore their rights when it comes to spending time with their children. However, custody rights of a mother or father do not exist in Australia. The Court does not consider gender in the decision-making process and instead prioritises the child’s needs.

Parents must show that they are willing to work together respectfully to achieve a result that reflects what’s best for their child — in circumstances where it is safe for either party to do so. This is most commonly known as ‘equal shared parental responsibility.’

Equal shared parental responsibility

Under the Family Law Act (Cth), unless a parenting order exists, both parents are presumed to have equal shared parental responsibility. This term encourages separating couples to co-parent effectively by giving both parties an equal say in matters involving their children. Under equal shared parental responsibility, parents must genuinely consult each other before making major decisions for their children.

Custody procedures where family violence is present

The Court takes a child’s safety incredibly seriously and will do everything in its power to prevent children in dangerous situations from harm. In some cases, this means granting sole custody to the other parent. You can also take extra precautions and file for a Child Protection Order — an order made by the Children’s Court that protects a child from an abusive parent. 

Financial responsibility for children

When parents have equal shared parental responsibility, they are both financially responsible for their children, regardless of which parent the child lives with. Parents can either make their own financial arrangements for their children or ask Services Australia to provide a child support assessment to calculate how much a parent needs to pay.

The amount of child support you may be asked to provide or receive will depend on factors such as:

  • The age of your children
  • The number of children you have 
  • Your and your spouse’s income

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers — compassionate child custody lawyers

If you’ve decided to separate or divorce your spouse, turning to the counsel of a professional child custody lawyer can help you make the best decisions for your children’s future. 

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers is a top-tier Family Law firm with longstanding experience in helping families navigate separation and divorce. 

We understand that the welfare of your children is your top priority and that entrusting the help of a firm is a major decision. Our team of custody lawyers are more than qualified to help you with securing child support and child custody, parenting time and parenting orders. Have your child custody matter taken care of by one of our lawyers today.

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