The Family Law Act makes it clear that parents have responsibilities for their children, not “rights”.
When parents separate, it is important to understand that in most cases, they continue to share the responsibility for the “big issues” in their children’s lives. These big issues are referred to as “major long-term issues” under the Family Law Act.
What are major long-term issues?
Major long-term issues include such things as the child’s religious and cultural upbringing, education, health, the child’s name and changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with parent (ie moving away).
All matters that concern the care, welfare and development of the child should be decided in consultation with the other parent and a joint decision made that both parents agree with.
What if we can’t agree?
What happens if you cannot reach agreement about an issue such as the choice of school? The best way to resolve parenting matters is through Family Dispute Resolution. Talking through the issues with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner can help both parents address their concerns and may help you to reach an agreement that is in your child’s best interests.
If you do need the assistance of the Family Courts to resolve the dispute about a major long-term issue, then generally you must show that you have first attempted to resolve the issue through mediation before you can file a Court application. There are exceptions, such as if there is urgency surrounding the issue or if there has been family violence or a risk of family violence occurring.
What is best for us?
Each family situation is unique and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to your family and the best arrangements for your children. Seeking legal advice may help you to resolve the parenting issues without having to seek the assistance of the Court system.