The Rights of Dads in Divorce
There is a common misconception that fathers have fewer rights than mothers in divorce situations.
There’s nothing easy about divorce and this fallacy can exacerbate a challenging situation by causing unnecessary distress, anxiety and uncertainty. It is really important for fathers to know exactly where they stand and not let a misunderstanding about their rights needlessly complicate matters.
The facts are simple.
There is a presumption in family law that fathers and mothers have equal shared parental responsibility of their child. You will note the phrase ‘parental responsibility’ as opposed to ‘rights’, and that’s because Family law in Australia is concerned about making sure that the child’s best interests are met; the Court focuses on recognising the rights of the child.
Some separated couples are able to reach agreement between themselves when it comes to parenting arrangements. However, in conflict situations, Court proceedings may be the only option for determining arrangements. This can be a difficult and distressing time for the whole family, and it is in everyone’s best interests to work hard to try to reach agreement as quickly as practically possible.
When the court makes a determination as to parenting matter, it is not concerned about the gender of the parent. It does recognise the importance of a child having a stable relationship with both parents and will consider the unique circumstances of each individual case.
It is possible that the misconception about the law being prejudiced against fathers stems from the reality that most very young children have a strong natural physical bond with their mother, and usually spend more time with them. Whilst that may be the case, the starting position in a separated family is for a child to spend equal time with a mother and father, or at least significant or substantial time with each parent.
It is important to know that ‘equal responsibility’ doesn’t necessarily translate into each parent having equal time with the child.
The court’s decision will be based on what it believes to be in the child’s best interests as well as the practicality of any arrangement. Ultimately, the court’s aim is for the children to benefit from having both parents meaningfully involved in their lives. Parental responsibility continues until the child is 18 years of age.
Regardless of the circumstances of the separation and regardless of whether issues can be resolved amicably or through mediation or the Courts, it is very helpful to have legal representation from the outset. Engaging a family lawyer often prevents the need for Court involvement, and thereby saving substantial costs.
An experienced family lawyer can help clarify your situation as a parent, plus guide and support you through every step of the process.
Please note that this article is merely an overview and is not intended as legal advice.
If you would like more information on the rights of dads in divorce or advice on any other aspect of family law in Perth, please get in touch with West Family Lawyers or call them on +61 8 9380 9111.
Mark is a senior lawyer with a broad experience in family law. His blend of business management experience and legal competencies is particularly beneficial to resolving complicated family law disputes concerning property and children.
Mark is settlement-focused and energetic about negotiating fair outcomes with a track record of brokering good results for his clients. He is part of a small team of trusted family lawyers in Perth practising in the Family Court of Western Australia.
Find out more about Mark here.