The most common child custody arrangement in Australia is known as “joint custody” or “shared care.”
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 and significant time arrangement.
Factors Considered in Determining Custody Arrangements:
1. Best Interests of the Child: The paramount consideration in any child custody case is the best interests of the child. The court assesses various factors, including the child’s age, emotional and physical well-being, relationships with parents and siblings, and any history of family violence or abuse.
2. Parental Capacity and Willingness: The court evaluates each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, their willingness to foster a positive relationship with the other parent, and their commitment to supporting the child’s well-being and development.
3. Child’s Wishes: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their wishes and preferences may be taken into account. The court considers their views to ensure they are given due weight, considering the child’s capacity to understand the situation.
4. Practical Considerations: The court also considers practical factors, such as the child’s established routines, proximity to schools and support networks, and the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment.
Also read: Child Laws Sleeping Arrangements Australia
Care Percentage and Child Custody Percentage: What’s the difference
Before diving into how to determine child custody percentage, let us first understand the terms. The terms “care percentage” and “child custody percentage” can sometimes be used interchangeably, but they can have slightly different connotations depending on the context. Here is a brief explanation of what they mean:
• Care Percentage: Care percentage refers to the division of physical care or time spent with a child between separated or divorced parents. It quantifies the amount of time each parent has primary responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child. This includes activities like providing meals, helping with homework, attending appointments, and participating in extracurricular activities. Care percentage focuses on the practical aspects of parenting and the direct involvement of each parent in the child’s daily life
• Child Custody Percentage: Child custody percentage, on the other hand, refers to the division of legal custody or decision-making authority for a child. It relates to the responsibility for major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and general welfare. It pertains to the legal rights and responsibilities associated with parenting rather than day-to-day care.
While care percentage primarily deals with physical care and involvement in the child’s daily life, child custody percentage focuses on legal authority and decision-making power. It’s important to note that the specific terminology and definitions may vary depending on the jurisdiction and legal framework in which they are used.
How to Determine Child Custody Percentage
Computing child custody percentage in Australia involves a case-specific assessment based on the unique circumstances and the best interests of the child. While there is no standardised formula for how to determine child custody percentage, here are some general steps that may be followed:
- Gather Information: Collect relevant information about the child, both parents and their involvement in the child’s life. This includes factors such as the child’s age, school schedule, extracurricular activities, and the availability of each parent.
- Consider Parenting Arrangements: Evaluate the proposed or existing parenting arrangements, including the time each parent spends with the child. This includes weekdays, weekends, school holidays, special occasions, and vacations.
- Assess Overnights: Determine the number of overnights each parent has with the child. This can be calculated by counting the number of nights the child spends at each parent’s residence over a specified period, such as a month or a year.
- Factor in Daytime Care: In addition to overnights, consider the amount of daytime care provided by each parent. This includes time spent on activities like school drop-offs and pickups, meals, and general care during the day.
- Evaluate Parental Responsibilities: Consider the allocation of parental responsibilities, such as decision-making authority for the child’s education, healthcare, religion, and general welfare. This can be a factor in determining the weight given to each parent’s involvement in the child’s life.
- Weigh Other Relevant Factors: Take into account other relevant factors, such as the child’s wishes (depending on their age and maturity), the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs, the strength of the parent-child relationship, and any considerations related to safety or well-being.
- Consult Legal Advice: It is crucial to consult with a family law professional or seek legal advice specific to your case. They can guide the factors relevant to your situation and help ensure compliance with Australian family law principles.
Remember that child custody arrangements are highly individualised, and the court ultimately makes the determination based on the best interests of the child. The court’s decision may not solely rely on a strict calculation of percentages but considers the overall circumstances and factors outlined in the Family Law Act 1975.
We Can Help You Too: What Is the Most Common Child Custody Arrangement
As a dedicated law firm specialising in family law matters, we recently had the opportunity to assist a client in navigating the complex terrain of child custody arrangements. Our primary objective was to ensure that the best interests of the child were prioritised throughout the process.
From the initial consultation, it was evident that our client, a caring and devoted father, sought a fair and sustainable custody arrangement that would maintain a strong and loving bond with their 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.
Child Custody Arrangement and the Child’s Best Interests
In Australia, the most common child custody arrangement is joint custody or shared care, which promotes shared parental responsibility and equal or substantial time spent with each parent.
The family law system focuses on the best interests of the child when making custody decisions, taking into account factors such as parental capacity, the child’s wishes, and practical considerations.
Parents need to prioritise the well-being and stability of their children during separation or divorce.
Seeking legal advice and considering mediation or negotiation processes can help parents reach mutually agreeable custody arrangements that ensure the child’s needs are met and their relationship with both parents is maintained.
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.