11 Feb I have a right to equal time with my kids – fact or myth?
The paramount consideration in all parenting matters is the ‘best interests’ of the children. The Family Law Act aims to promote and preserve the right of each child to know and have a relationship with both of their parents. Parents do not have “rights” addressed in the Family Law Act, but rather the Act speaks to parents responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their children.
When making parenting Orders, the Court must first consider the presumption that parents should have equal shared parental responsibility in relation to major long term issues concerning their children. If the presumption is not rebutted, then the Court must consider whether it is in the best interests of the children to spend equal time with both parents, significant and substantial time or some alternative arrangement.
When determining whether to make Orders that provide for the children to spend equal time with both parents, the Court will take into account factors including:
- The parents’ ability to communicate about their children;
- The distance between each of the parents’ homes;
- Previous parenting arrangements including if the parents have been able to facilitate an equal time arrangement in the past;
- Whether the children can continue to attend the same school and maintain the same friendships in both homes;
- If the parties have a history of positive co-parenting;
- Whether the parties respect each other as parents;
- Whether the parents agree about parenting issues such as bed time, discipline, homework, diet;
- Whether the parents can agree on religious beliefs, cultural identify, sporting affiliations;
- The children’s wishes and what factors may have influenced those wishes;
- Whether other siblings live;
- Whether the children can move freely between each parent’s home.
If the Courts cannot be satisfied that most of the above issues are answered in the affirmative, then it is possible that the Courts may not consider an equal time arrangement approach due to risk of exposing children to future or escalated parental conflict.
If you wish to pursue an equal time arrangement for your children, you should consider the above points. It is important to remember that every case and every family is different, and we encourage you to meet with one of our experienced family law solicitors to discuss whether an equal time arrangement is appropriate in your circumstances.