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  • 11 Family Law
  • Parental Responsibility – Who the Child Lives With and Communicates With
  • Terms of Reference
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Terms of Reference

There are many terms associated with parental responsibility. These are provided below.

Equal shared parental responsibility

The Family Law Act now presumes that parents, except in cases where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is child abuse or family violence, have equal shared parental responsibility when making parenting orders. This presumption can be rebutted with evidence that it would not be in the best interests of the child (s61DAFLA).

Who the child lives with

This was formerly known as custody. It refers to an order that the child live with a particular person, usually but not necessarily a parent. A ‘lives with’ order does not give any other rights or obligations. The order may say that the child lives with one person for a defined period of time and with another for another period of time. In order to have the same authority that an old custody order gave to the custodial parent, there must also be a specific issues ‘order’ to give day-to-day parental responsibility to the parent who holds the ‘lives with’ order.

Who a child spends time with and communicates with

This was formerly known as access or contact. It refers to the time that a child and the parent they are not living with spend together. ‘Spending time with’ is based on the right of a child to maintain a meaningful relationship with a non-‘lives with’ parent, and with other significant people in the child’s life. A ‘spends time with’ order may be with other people besides a parent, e.g. grandparents. An order can also be made allowing the time and method by which the child communicates with the ‘non-live with’ parent, for example – skype, telephone and email.

Specific Issues Order

This refers to an order about anything besides ‘lives with’, spending time with’ or child support. A specific issues order can say which parent has responsibility for the long-term or day-to-day care, welfare and development of the child. It may also be about:

  • particular needs of the child, e.g. medication;
  • conditions for ‘time spent’ such as no consumption of alcohol;
  • specific decisions in a child’s life about school, pierced ears, ballet lessons, football codes, hairstyles etc.

Page last updated 14/02/2020

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