There is still some misunderstanding about a change to parenting laws made by the Howard Government in 2006 when a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility was introduced.
Some media outlets at the time suggested the change created a presumption that children would live 50% with one parent and 50% with the other.
But the new law provides a presumption of equal parental responsibility, not equal time.
Parental responsibility refers to long term decisions concerning the welfare of children, such as their education, health, religion, relocation and names. Orders for “time” relate to where children actually live.
There is a presumption, provided there is no evidence of family violence, that parental responsibility be shared equally.
If the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility applies, a Court must then consider whether equal time or significant or substantial time with one parent is in the best interests of the children.
Courts do not often make Orders for equal time for very young children and, even with older children, consider the best interests of the children and the practicality of equal time before making such Orders.
In practice there are now more equal time arrangements made by agreement, partly as a result of the greater emphasis on equal time by the 2006 amendments and partly as a result of a misunderstanding as to how the law is applied.