When there are children involved in a divorce situation there needs to be an agreement made about who will take responsibility for the children. Shared custody refers to the amount of time that a child spends with each parent.

Does shared custody mean equal time with each parent?

Shared custody does not mean that each parent will get to spend equal amount of time with their children. From a practical standpoint shared custody is usually determined on a case by case basis and the best interests of the child is always the priority. Sometimes spending meaningful time with both parents is in the best interests of the child, however, this does necessarily mean equal time.

The time that a child spends with each parent is also different to the concept of parental responsibility. When there is no Court Order, both parents retain joint parental responsibility for their child. This means they have an equal say in making decisions about the child’s long term care, welfare and development such as where the child attends school, should he/she have a major medical procedure or their religious upbringing.

 

What does the Court take into consideration when looking at shared custody?

When the Court is making a decision about how much time a child should spend with each parent, the Court will consider the following factors:

  1. whether the child spending equal time with each parent would be in the best interests of the child; and
  2. whether the child spending equal time with each of the parents is reasonably practicable (for example do the parents live fairly close to each other).

What does “in the best interests of the child” mean?

There are two main considerations the Court will take into account in determining if an arrangement is in the best interests of the child:

  • The benefit to the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
  • The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm, and to ensure they are not exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.

When considering the arrangements for your children it is important that you focus on what is best for the stability and happiness of the child not what is best for the parent. For example, the Court will give greater weight to the safety of the child over having a meaningful relationship with a parent.

The Court will also consider many other factors including:

  • Any views given by the child
  • The nature of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • The nature of the relationship with other people such as grandparents and other relatives
  • The nature of the long term decisions that each parent has, or has not, taken relating to the child
  • The extent to which each parent has taken, or not taken, to spend time with the child
  • The capacity of each parent to provide for the needs of the child
  • If the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, their right to enjoy their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture.
  • The attitude to the child that each parent has demonstrated with regards to parenthood
  • The existence of any family violence order
  • And any other factor that the Court considers relevant to the child.

How is the Child Support calculated for shared custody?

In Australia shared custody means that the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent. In the case of a 50/50 split, the higher earner usually pays child support to the lower earner to ensure the children’s standard of living is the same in both locations.

Can I calculate the amount of Child Support myself?

Yes, there is a detailed explanation of how child support is calculated on the Child Support Australia website. https://childsupportaustralia.com/how-calculated/

You will need the following information to calculate child support

  1. taxable incomes of both parents
  2. percentage of nights each parent has the child(ren)
  3. number of children aged < 13 and number aged 13-17
  4. information on any other dependents.

Calculating support is based on the following principals:

  • each parent is responsible for meeting the needs of the child
  • the costs will depend on the number of children and their ages
  • higher income parents are required to contribute more
  • a parent may get credit for meeting expenses while caring for the child
  • you will pay support when your income percental is greater than your cost percentage.

This process can be a little daunting to calculate yourself however so please give us a call and our friendly solicitors can help you calculate this amount so you know what to expect.