What Is the Most Common Child Custody Arrangement?

what is the most common child custody arrangement | Melbourne Family Lawyers

The most common child custody arrangement in Australia is known as “joint custody”.

This arrangement emphasises both parents’ involvement in making major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion. It also allows for an equal or substantial division of the child’s time spent with each parent.

It also means that the child should spend most of their time with one parent, approximately 9 nights a fortnight, and the rest of the time with the other parent.

This is called a substantial time arrangement. In this article, we have discussed the difference between joint custody and shared parenting.

Joint Custody Meaning

Joint custody, also known as shared custody, refers to a legal arrangement where both parents are actively involved in making major decisions regarding their child’s upbringing and welfare. It recognises that children benefit from having meaningful relationships with both parents, even if they no longer live together as a couple.

Rights and Responsibilities

  • Decision-making: Under joint custody, both parents share the responsibility of making important decisions related to the child’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and other significant matters. This ensures that both parents have an equal say in shaping their child’s life.
  • Time-sharing: Joint custody also involves a shared parenting time arrangement, where the child spends substantial time with each parent. The exact schedule can vary based on the specific circumstances of the family and what is deemed to be in the child’s best interests.

How Joint Custody Works

 Here are the laws and regulations that govern joint custody agreements in Australia, giving you a thorough grasp of how joint custody functions.

Parenting Plans and Consent Orders

Parents can either come up with a parenting plan or ask the court for consent orders to establish joint custody.

A parenting plan is a document that outlines the decisions that will be made regarding the children’s care, living arrangements, and upbringing. Although it does not have legal force, it offers a framework for collaboration.

On the other hand, court-approved consent orders have legal validity, and both parents must abide by them.

Parental Responsibilities

When a child has joint custody, both parents are equally responsible for making important choices about their upbringing, including those involving their education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities.

Communication and cooperation between parents are vital to ensuring the children’s best interests are met.

Living Arrangements

Joint custody arrangements can vary depending on the circumstances and the children’s ages. Parents can decide to spend equal amounts of time with each family, giving each child an equal amount of attention.

Alternatively, the children may spend more time with one parent while still maintaining regular contact with the other.

Also read: What Is 60 40 Child Custody: Quick Guide

Mediation and Dispute Resolution

Mediation is frequently advised when parents are unable to agree on joint custody. Mediation provides an opportunity for parents to discuss their concerns and work towards a mutually acceptable agreement with the assistance of a neutral third party.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the matter may proceed to court, where a judge will make a decision based on the child’s best interests.

Adjustments to Joint Custody Arrangements

Joint custody arrangements must be flexible because children’s needs can vary over time. The custody arrangement should be flexible enough to accommodate the children’s changing routines, school obligations, and extracurricular activities.

Regular contact and collaboration between parents are essential for a seamless transition and to cause the least disruption for the kids.

Is It Possible to Get Shared Custody Without Being Married?

Yes, it is possible to get joint custody of a child without being married.

The Family Law Act 1975 governs custody arrangements for children of separated parents, whether they are married or not.

Under the Act, the court must consider the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and visitation arrangements.

If you are not married to your child’s other parent and wish to seek joint custody, you can make an application to the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court.

The process involves filing an application, attending a court hearing, and presenting evidence to support your case.

Joint Custody Pros and Cons

Pros of Joint Custody in Australia:

  • Enhanced Emotional Well-being: Joint custody allows children to maintain strong bonds with both parents, ensuring their emotional well-being and sense of security. Regular contact with both parents can minimise the negative impact of separation or divorce on children.
  • Shared Decision-Making: With joint custody, both parents are involved in major decisions affecting their child’s life, including education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. This arrangement promotes a balanced approach and encourages parents to collaborate for the benefit of their children.
  • Parental Involvement: Joint custody enables both parents to be actively involved in their child’s daily life. This involvement provides children with stability, support, and consistent parenting from both parents, fostering their overall development.
  • Equal Time-Sharing: In some cases, joint custody may involve an equal division of time between both parents. This arrangement can offer children the opportunity to spend quality time with both parents, maintaining their relationships and creating lasting memories.

Cons of Joint Custody in Australia:

  • High Levels of Cooperation Required: Successful joint custody arrangements rely heavily on effective communication and cooperation between parents. In situations where there is a high level of conflict or a communication breakdown, joint custody may not be suitable, as it can further exacerbate tensions and impact the child’s well-being.
  • Geographical Challenges: Joint custody can be challenging if parents live far apart from each other. The logistics of travel and ensuring the child’s stability in school and extracurricular activities may become complicated and require additional coordination and planning.
  • Disruptions in Routine: Frequent transitions between two households can disrupt a child’s routine and may cause some adjustment difficulties. Children may need time to adapt to different rules, expectations, and environments when transitioning between parents.
  • Potential for Conflict: Joint custody can increase the likelihood of ongoing conflicts between parents, especially if they have difficulty resolving disagreements. Prolonged exposure to parental conflict can negatively impact children’s mental health and overall well-being.

Factors Influencing the Best Custody Schedule

1. Age and Developmental Needs: The age and developmental stage of the child are significant factors in determining the best joint custody schedule. Infants and young children may require shorter, frequent contact with both parents to maintain a sense of stability and attachment. Older children may benefit from longer periods with each parent, allowing them to establish routines and maintain meaningful relationships.

2. Proximity and Logistics: The distance between the parents’ residences and the child’s school, extracurricular activities, and support systems can impact the custody schedule. Practical considerations such as transportation arrangements and the ability to maintain regular contact should be taken into account when determining the best schedule.

3. Parental Availability and Cooperation: The availability and willingness of both parents to share parenting responsibilities are crucial. A joint custody schedule should align with the parents’ work schedules, personal commitments, and ability to cooperate effectively for the child’s well-being.

Types of Joint Custody Schedules

1. Equal Time Arrangement: In an equal time arrangement, the child spends an approximately equal amount of time with each parent. This schedule often alternates weekly or fortnightly, providing the child with substantial contact with both parents.

2. Substantial and Significant Time Arrangement: This schedule involves the child spending significant time with both parents, although not necessarily an equal amount. It may involve weekends, weekdays, school holidays, or extended periods during vacations.

3. Customised Arrangements: Depending on the specific circumstances, parents can create personalised joint custody schedules that cater to their unique needs and those of their child. Flexibility, cooperation, and the child’s best interests should remain the guiding principles.

Legal Considerations and Mediation

It is essential to seek the legal advice of custody lawyers when considering joint custody arrangements in Australia. If parents cannot agree on a custody schedule, they are encouraged to participate in family dispute resolution or mediation.

These processes aim to facilitate open communication and help parents reach a mutually beneficial agreement. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court may need to decide based on the best interests of the child.

We carefully examined the details of their case, considering factors such as the child’s age, the parents’ capacity to provide, and the existing relationship dynamics.

We emphasised the importance of open communication and encouraged constructive negotiations with the other parent.

Through a combination of mediation and skilful representation, we successfully reached a joint custody agreement that allowed our client to actively participate in important decisions regarding their child’s upbringing while also ensuring a fair division of time spent with each parent.

Our custody lawyers are committed to providing compassionate and comprehensive legal support to families in need and assisting our client in achieving a favourable custody arrangement was a rewarding experience for our entire team.

How We Can Assist You

We recently assisted client Madison in establishing a joint custody schedule for her daughter, Lily. She would like to learn what is the best schedule for joint custody.

Our dedicated legal team delved into the Family Law Act 1975, analysing its provisions to craft a schedule in Lily’s best interests. Through extensive consultations, we empathised with Madison’s concerns and collaboratively developed a tailored plan.

Considering Lily’s age, developmental needs, and logistics, we worked closely with Madison to design a balanced arrangement that allowed for meaningful time with both parents. Our skilled negotiations with Madison’s former partner resulted in a cooperative resolution.

Witnessing Madison’s relief as we finalised the joint custody schedule was satisfying. We take pride in knowing that our expertise has contributed to a positive and stable future for Lily, where she can maintain strong bonds with both parents

Determining what is the best schedule for joint custody involves careful consideration of various factors, including the child’s best interests, parental availability, and logistical considerations.

The Family Law Act prioritises maintaining a meaningful relationship between the child and both parents, provided it is safe and beneficial.

Seeking legal advice and engaging in mediation can greatly assist parents in reaching a mutually agreeable custody arrangement.

By prioritising the child’s well-being and fostering cooperation, parents can create a joint custody schedule that supports the child’s healthy development and nurtures their relationships with both parents.

Director of Melbourne Family Lawyers, Hayder manages the practice and oversees the running of all of the files in the practice. Hayder has an astute eye for case strategy and running particularly complex matters in the family law system.

3 thoughts on “What Is the Most Common Child Custody Arrangement?”

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