In 2006, changes to the Family Law Act ensured that all parents default to SHARED EQUAL PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY for their children. Regardless of your marital situation (single, defacto, re-married, divorced or separated). If you are a parent to a child, you may assume Shared Equal Parenting Responsibility or come to an agreement offering Shared Parental Responsibility (yes, these are different).
In contrast, if Shared Equal Responsibility or Shared Parental Responsibility doesn’t seem to suit your child’s needs, then being awarded Sole Parental Responsibility (Sole PR) may be what you are after. Sole PR is difficult and rare to obtain because the courts want parents to work together to parent children. Either, the Judge needs to award Sole PR and make it an order or one parent needs to consent to giving parental responsibility to the other parent and the court needs to make that an Order. The courts reluctantly offer Sole PR. Once Sole PR has been ordered, it is very difficult to revoke the Order (unless the position is abused by the parent with Sole PR).
There are four criteria (but not limited to) that the Judge may award Sole PR:
To have Sole PR awarded on the basis of family violence or abuse towards children, there needs to be sufficiently significant evidence of the fact. Similarly, having the children exposed to high conflict situations which may arise from the parents’ inability to communicate or make decisions is not in the best interest of the children. Again, poor communication that doesn’t arise in high conflict is not sufficient to be awarded Sole PR.
When awarded Sole PR, it means that major life decisions are the concern and obligation of the Sole PR parent. Major life decisions may include:
Sometimes, the court will only award Sole PR for a few of the above items and not always all. In other instances, other items may be specifically included.
Item #5 (living and relocating for a parent) is one of the more difficult Sole PR to be awarded. Nowadays, the Family Law Act has strong regulations regarding relocating and making it significantly more difficult for one parent to gain access or visitations to a child.
Don’t be mislead: You don’t get to make a decision and keep the other parent in the dark regarding matters concerning the child. Sole PR means that you can make a decision but you must also inform the other parent.