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  • Writer's pictureTemara Willis

Shared parental responsibility. What does this mean?

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Navigating Shared Parental Responsibility: A Roadmap for Co-Parenting Clarity

In the realm of co-parenting, shared parental responsibility takes centre stage, signifying that both parents share equal rights and decision-making authority regarding their children. The Family Law Act 1975 underpins this fundamental concept, emphasising a presumption that both parents will be equally responsible for making major, long-term decisions, ranging from educational choices to significant health matters. While the legal framework is clear, implementing shared parental responsibility in practice can be a challenging endeavour. At Adelaide Family Mediation, we understand that effective communication and reduced conflict are the cornerstones of this journey towards harmonious co-parenting.

The Essence of Shared Parental Responsibility

Embracing shared parental responsibility signifies that both parents are required to consult and genuinely collaborate on major decisions concerning their child's life. This joint approach ensures that the best interests of the child remain at the forefront. It acknowledges that children benefit immensely from having a healthy relationship with both parents, especially in the context of a divorce or separation that they did not request.

The Art of Effective Communication

The key to a successful shared parental responsibility lies in communication. Both parents are responsible for engaging in constructive conversations regarding major decisions about their child's life. In practice, this means navigating through decisions such as schooling, healthcare, and extracurricular activities with an unwavering commitment to open dialogue and mutual understanding.

Letting Go of the Small Stuff

One invaluable piece of advice that we offer to our clients during family mediation is to avoid micromanaging the other parent. While it may be challenging to relinquish control over aspects like the children's diet or clothing choices, it's crucial to prioritise the children's well-being.

Remember, as long as the children are safe, happy, and well-cared for, the minor details should not be a cause for contention. A client once aptly pointed out, "We couldn't agree on these things when we were together, so why should we expect to agree when we are separated?" This reality underscores the importance of reducing conflict by respecting the other parent's choices when they are responsible for parenting decisions.

Practical Implementation of Shared Parental Responsibility

Putting shared parental responsibility into practice involves several key aspects:

  1. Medical Decisions - Never make a significant medical decision about the child without consulting the other parent. This includes matters like vaccinations, surgeries, or orthodontic treatments. In cases where agreement is elusive, mediation can offer a constructive path forward, ensuring that a child's health is not compromised by parental disputes.

  2. Educational Choices - Collaborate on decisions regarding education, such as choosing between public or private schools, childcare arrangements, and extracurricular activities. Define roles and responsibilities, including attendance and associated fees.

  3. Financial Commitments - Address the financial aspects of raising the children, encompassing child support, medical expenses, school costs, clothing, and expenses related to weekend activities.

  4. Holidays and Special Events - Establish clear arrangements for holidays and special occasions, such as birthdays. Providing children with a structured schedule fosters adaptability and reduces stress associated with uncertain plans.

  5. Future Decision-Making Guidelines - Develop a plan or guidelines for future decisions, outlining how you will collaboratively address decisions like international trips, school camps, passport applications, and more.

The Path Forward

Separation is a challenging journey, particularly for the children who must navigate their lives between two homes. As parents, our primary obligation is to prioritise their well-being by minimising conflict and fostering good communication. Family mediation offers a structured and supportive environment for developing the necessary plan to navigate shared parental responsibility. At

Adelaide Family Mediation, we are here to guide you towards a harmonious and successful co-parenting journey.

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