Parties with children who are going through a separation are, in the vast majority of cases, still required to include the other parent in any important decisions made in relation to their children. This can sometimes prove difficult, since the ability for parties to communicate about anything, let alone important decisions linked to their children, can be arduous.

What is parental responsibility?

As parents, parties are responsible for making various decisions on behalf of their children right up until the child turns 18. These might include decisions surrounding the child’s name, medical and health matters, school enrolment and education, as well as the child’s religious and cultural upbringing.

What happens after separation?

Separation does not automatically mean that parental responsibility ceases, nor that it should be granted to one parent over the other. In fact, in the event of a separation there is a presumption that both parties will continue to have equal shared parental responsibility for their children. As such, unless the court makes an order specifically allocating parental responsibility to one party, parents should expect to continue discussing and agreeing upon major long-term issues relating to their children.
Parties are not expected to consult
with one another in relation to less significant every day decisions, such as
what meals their children are served or what time they go to bed. In turn, the parent caring for the children will generally be free to make such decisions (assuming they are acting responsibly) without involving the other parent.
Parties do sometimes choose to make unilateral decisions without giving the other parent any prior notice, or the opportunity to provide input. This is a risky exercise, as it inevitably leads to the aggrieved party making an application to the court, usually on an urgent basis, to stop the other party from acting on such matters.
The most common examples of these matters include attempts by one party to relocate with the children (often resulting in that parent being ordered to return with the children); when a parent seeks to travel overseas with the children; or those relating to the children’s school enrolment.

How to avoid running into problems

Where possible, parties should continue to communicate with one another on aspects of their parental responsibility. This is not always an easy task, so parties should look to obtain legal advice early on to ensure their options around these matters can be fully explained.


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Adam West is an accredited specialist in family law and a principal with Coleman Greig Lawyers. He has lived in the Hills District with his family for many years and represents clients from the region in resolving parenting disputes, financial and property matters. Adam is available at Coleman Greig’s Norwest, Parramatta or Penrith offices.
This article is sponsored by Coleman Greig Lawyers

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