Parental Responsibility – what is it and why is it important?

Posted on Jun 24, 2017 by Samantha Miller   |   Categories: Family Law

“Parental Responsibility” is defined in s61B of the Family Law Act as all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which, by law, parents have in relation to children.

All parents of a child have parental responsibility for that child unless a parenting order or plan provides otherwise.  When considering a matter, the court starts with a presumption that equal shared parental responsibility is in the child’s best interests.  This presumption does not apply if there are reasonable grounds to believe that one parent has engaged in abuse of the child (or any other child in the family) or family violence.

So from a practical standpoint what does parental responsibility mean?

It means the power to make decisions about “major long term issues” regarding the child’s:-

  • education
  • religious and cultural upbringing;
  • health;
  • name;
  • changes to the child’s living arrangements; and
  • other long term issues about the care, welfare and development of the child.


If parents have equal shared parental responsibility, then such decisions must be made after consultation and one parent cannot make such decisions unilaterally.  Note: consultation does not have to occur on day to day issues, only long-term major issues.