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The Federal Government has passed laws to amend the Family Law Act. These changes will come into effect from May 2024.

The government has made these changes for two main reasons;

  1. To reduce the confusion associated with the current presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. Many parents have been incorrectly assuming that equal shared parental responsibility means that both parents would get equal time with the child.
  2. To emphasise the importance of the safety of the child and any parties involved.

Parental responsibility
Parental responsibility refers to the person’s authority to make decisions on major long term issues relating to a child.

The amendments remove the presumption that both parents should be granted equal shared parental responsibility.

This means that the starting point for parental responsibility is the child’s best interests. The changes are likely to result in more bespoke parental responsibility arrangements.

For example, one parent may have sole parental responsibility for education matters and the other parent may have sole parental responsibility for health matters.

Best interest considerations
As a part of determining what are in the child’s best interests, the court must currently consider if the proposed parenting arrangements will result in the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents. This consideration has been removed by the amendments.

The amendments have added a new consideration for determining a child’s best interests: ensuring the safety of the child and any person who cares for the child.

Without any case law from the Family Court, we will need to wait to see how these new laws will be interpreted by the Family Court.