Basics of child custody in Australia

Oct 20, 2023

Understanding Child Custody in Australia

Child custody is a significant issue in any divorce or separation proceedings, and Australia is no exception. In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975, as amended, governs child custody matters. The primary focus of this law is the best interests of the child. This post will guide you through the basics of child custody in Australia.

The Concept of 'Best Interests'

The 'best interests' principle is the cornerstone of Australian child custody law. It means that all decisions made regarding the custody and care of a child should prioritize the child's welfare above all else. This principle is not only applied in court decisions but also guides parents in making their own parenting plans.

Types of Child Custody

In Australia, there are two types of custody: Legal custody and Physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child's upbringing, including education, health, and religion. Physical custody refers to where the child will live. Both types of custody can be shared jointly or awarded solely to one parent.

Child Custody Types

Joint Custody

Joint custody, also known as shared parental responsibility, is encouraged in Australia. It involves both parents sharing the decision-making responsibilities for the child. However, it does not necessarily mean that the child spends equal time with each parent.

Sole Custody

Sole custody occurs when one parent is given exclusive legal and physical custody of the child. This arrangement is less common and is usually implemented when one parent is deemed unfit or unable to care for the child.

Sole Custody

Deciding Child Custody

Child custody decisions can be made in two ways: through mutual agreement between the parents or by a court order. Parents are encouraged to agree on a parenting plan that outlines the details of how they will share parental responsibilities. If parents cannot agree, they may seek a court order, which will be based on the child's best interests.

Modification of Child Custody Orders

Once a child custody order is issued, it is not set in stone. If there is a significant change in circumstances, a parent can apply to the court to have the order reviewed and possibly modified. The court will again use the 'best interests' principle to assess the request.

Custody Modification

Seeking Legal Help

Child custody matters can be complex and emotionally charged. Therefore, it is advisable to seek legal advice from a family law specialist who can guide you through the process. Remember, the ultimate goal is to ensure the best outcome for your child.