Child Custody after a Divorce or Separation: The Ultimate Guide

child custody lawyers sydney

Divorce and separation are both filled with enough strife without children being thrown into the mix.

The terms of a separation/divorce might even be amicable. But deciding on the time, responsibilities, and finances each parent must dedicate to their children can result in plenty of unneeded friction.

Many custody-related anxieties are rooted in the unknown. Meaning, it’s time to obtain a grasp of custody laws in Australia to quell some of those anxieties.

Our child custody lawyers are best in Sydney and here to help you through the process.

A Brief Introduction to Child Custody

When the courts decide on custody in Australia, it is crucial that the children maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents. More specifically, a child should have a close and continuing involvement with both parents and any other significant caregivers.

What’s most important to the courts, is that the child is not exposed to harm. Their best interests weigh heavily on the eventual decision while the parents’ respective genders hold no sway in the matter, as mandated by the Family Law Act of 1975.

Below, we’ll be examining some more factors involved with children and family law.

Shared Responsibilities of the Parents

‘Equal Shared Parental Responsibility’ is the rule put in place for separate/divorced parents whose child is under the age of 18. The law dictates that both parents are responsible for making major long-term decisions that impact their child’s life, such as choices involving education, medical/health, and religion.

The shared responsibility rules remain intact unless the court deems it’s in the best interest of the child to remove responsibility from one or both parents. So, if the court believes that remaining in one or both parents’ custody will put the child in harm’s way, ‘Equal Shared Parental Responsibility’ no longer applies.

In the case that both parents were never married or in a relationship, they still must adhere to Australia’s parental responsibility laws.

It’s also worth noting that shared responsibility does not mean equal time.

How to Share Time

In Australia, custody and contact arrangements no longer exist in family law. It’s a somewhat murky area with no particular set of rules. Therefore, the parents themselves are encouraged to come up with an agreement after their separation/divorce.

There’s no law in place dictating that a child must spend 50:50 time with each parent. Instead, they must discuss the specific needs of their child before reaching their own verdict on living circumstances. This also pertains to how and when the child will spend time with their parents, respectively.

Fortunately, separated families have many options to help ensure children have healthy, ongoing relationships with both parents.

In fact, former partners don’t even need to go to court when making these arrangements for their children. All they’ll have to do is obtain an order of consent that’s approved by a court.

Remembering the Best Interests of the Child

Separation might be tough and filled with ill-feelings, but parents must remain cognizant of the best interests of their child when making decisions regarding custody.

While the majority of separated/divorced parents can reach custody and living arrangements through joint discussions, others may require specialist family mediation. This service assists separating/divorcing parents in coming to some form of agreement that appeases both parties.

Some parents may still struggle to compromise – in which case, a family court judge will reach a decision based on the best interests of the child in accordance with the Family Law Act.

A Matter of Finances

Both parents are still financially obliged to their children after a separation or divorce no matter who the child lives with.

Some parents are able to reach an agreement of their own volition while others apply for a child support assessment.

The Department of Human Services is responsible for the child support program and helps parents with providing support for their children.

The Importance of Maintaining Civility

Separations and divorces can happen to any couple. There’s nothing etched in stone saying one party must shoulder all the blame – it’s just the way things worked out.

That doesn’t make it any less difficult on the children of parting parents. Therefore, parents should focus on what’s best for their children in the present and the future.

Even in the most difficult of circumstances, it’s best to never speak ill of a child’s other parent. Nor should children be coerced into making decisions about their living arrangements. While it may be tempting, forcing a child to choose between parents is oftentimes psychologically damaging.


At Unified Lawyers we understand divorce and separation – which are already incredibly difficult but become exponentially more complicated when children are involved.

As such, parting parents should know exactly what they’re getting into. So, it’s time to bone up on the above custody laws to be prepared for what’s in store.

From there, hopefully, both parties can come to an amicable agreement that has positive implications for their children.


LawTermFinder – online help with legal terms. From MacQuarie University:


Children and family law. From An Australian Government Initiative: