Article written by Nardine Collier
Family Lawyer Cairns & Alice Springs

I’ll set out what equal shared parental responsibility means in the Family Law Act:

“equal shared parental responsibility” means that parents must consult with each other and share responsibility for decisions about “major long-term issues” in regard to the children.

The phrase “major long-term issues” is defined in the Family Law Act as follows:

“issues about the care, welfare and development of the child of a long-term nature and includes (but is not limited to) issues of that nature about:

  1. the child’s education (both current and future); and
  2. the child’s religious and cultural upbringing; and
  3. the child’s health; and
  4. the child’s name; and
  5. changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent.

To avoid doubt, a decision by a parent of a child to form a relationship with a new partner is not, of itself, a major long-term issue in relation to the child. However, the decision will involve a major long-term issue if, for example, the relationship with the new partner involves the parent moving to another area and the move will make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with the other parent.”

To avoid doubt, a decision by a parent of a child to form a relationship with a new partner is not, of itself, a major long-term issue in relation to the child. However, the decision will involve a major long-term issue if, for example, the relationship with the new partner involves the parent moving to another area and the move will make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with the other parent.”

Consultation

“Consult with” is not defined in the Family Law Act but it has its normal meaning – “Speak to about” But what happens when the other parent is someone who doesn’t respond in a timely manner – or at all?

My suggestion is that in drafting consent orders, you might want to add a clause that says something like:

  • for the purposes of consultation, you will advise the other party of a decision you seek to make relating to long term issues to do with parental responsibility. If the other party does not reply to you within 14 days, you will be able to proceed with that decision as if there had been consultation and discussion.

Nardine Collier is a Nationally Accredited Mediator and has been mediating Family Law disputes for over 25 years. She is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, a Family Law Arbitrator, a panel Mediator for various Australia wide organisations and for courts and tribunals. Nardine regularly mediates at Legal Aid conferences in Family Law, in Cairns and Alice Springs. She is also the Cairns Representative of the Queensland Chapter of the Resolution Institute of Australia.