What is Parental Responsibility & What type of Parental Responsibility Orders do Courts make

Do both Parents have Parental Responsibility for Children? 

Both parents have full parental responsibility for their children until the child is 18 years of age. This applies whether the parents are still in a relationship together, have separated or have remarried.

This means that both parents have responsibility for the care and welfare of their children, both long term and on a day to day basis. This will include where a child lives, how much time they spend with the other parent, who could enrol a child in a new school, authorise a major medical procedure or arrange a religious ceremony for a child.

It is only if the parents cannot agree and decide upon these sorts of issues that the Family Court will make orders to say which parent has what responsibilities.

The Court will then have to make an Order saying what type of Parental Responsibility applies and who has Parental Responsibility.

The law governing parenting issues and arrangements for the children of separated or divorced couples, is set out in the Family Law Act 1975.

This applies whether or not the parents of a Child:



  • are or have been married;
  • were in a de facto relationship;
  • were a couple but never lived together;
  • were never in a relationship at all (if for example they only dated or it was a “one night stand”).

In 2006, amendments were made to the Family Law Act 1975, part of which was to introduce a presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility”.

The introduction of a presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility” was one of the more misunderstood and controversial changes to the Family Law Act as many thought (and still mistakenly think) that means a presumption of shared care or equal time. It does not.

For more, to understand what this presumption means, what it involves and how it might affect you, read our information sheet What is Equal Shared Parental Responsibility.

To find out if Equal Shared Parental Responsibility might apply to your situation, read our information sheet Will Equal Shared Parental Responsibility apply.

If you are successful in rebutting the presumption of Equal Shared Parental Parental Responsibility, the Court might instead consider imposing an Order for Sole Parental Responsibility.

To learn what Sole Parental Responsibility means, read our information sheet What is Sole Parental Responsibility.

To understand when Sole Parental Responsibility might apply, see our information sheet When will Sole Parental Responsibility apply.

What type of parental responsibility order the Court makes determines:

  • whether parents have to to consult each other and attempt to make joint decisions about major long-term issues for their children; and
  • Who makes the long term, short term and day to day decisions for their children.

You may also need to know the information contained in our information sheets:

More Information: Child’s Time with Parents & Parental Responsibility

We also have the following Fact Sheets which will provide you with more information on this topic:


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