In 2006 the new Family Law (Shared Parenting) Bill became law. It confirmed that in most cases, both separating parents should remain equally responsible for and try to agree on long-term issues regarding their children (called “equal shared parenting responsibility”).
The new 2006 law also provided that if it were appropriate for separated parents to continue to have an equal shared parenting responsibility, the Court had to consider if children should spend equal time with both their parents (for example, one week per fortnight at each parent’s home). If this is rejected, the Court must then consider making orders for the children to spend at least some weekend, weeknight and holiday time with the parent with whom they spend less time (called substantial and significant time).
Parents should not assume that Courts will usually now make orders for children to spend equal time with their parents. The way of determining if equal time is appropriate is the broad test of “the child’s best interests”.
Following separation, most children do not spend equal time with both their parents. This may be due to distance, work responsibilities, children’s primary care from one parent or parents’ inability to communicate effectively.
However, the 2006 amendments have made Courts more open to ordering equal time arrangements where they consider that such an arrangement is in the particular child’s best interests. Each case is decided on its own facts.