There is a common misconception in Australia that courts and the family law system tend to favour the mother of a child in parenting matters and disputes. However, this perceived bias is far from the truth.
In this article, we’re going to discuss parenting after separation, including whether it’s possible for a father to win full custody of his children and what the Australian family law system considers in parenting and child custody matters.
- 1 What is sole custody?
- 2 Parental responsibility and the Australian family law system
- 3 Can a father get sole custody of a child?
- 4 What factors does a court look at when deciding parenting orders?
- 5 What can a father do to increase their chances of gaining sole parental responsibility?
- 6 A Final Word
What is sole custody?
The terms full custody or child custody are often used to describe when one parent of a child has full responsibility for the child. This means that the child will live with them, they provide for the child on a day-to-day basis, and they make major long-term decisions for the child and their future.
The other parent may provide financial support and may be allowed to see their child; however, they will not have a say in how the child is raised or any of these major long-term decisions.
In the Australian family law system, child custody matters are usually referred to as parental responsibility – with full or sole custody known as sole parental responsibility.
Parental responsibility and the Australian family law system
The Family Law Act 1975 is the legislation that governs a wide variety of matters, including marriage, divorce, and parenting matters, including custody matters.
And while there is a perceived bias against men, particularly when it comes to child and parenting matters, the legislation has been designed to ensure that no gender is favoured. Instead, in parenting matters, including custody matters, the priority is the rights of the child or children in question.
Every question asked and factor taken into consideration when making decisions regarding children and parenting, focuses on what is in the best interests of the child.
Under the Family Law Act 1975, a child has two major rights, which are:
- They have the right to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents; and
- They have the right to be safe and protected from harm, including harm that can arise from parental conflict.
When a child’s parents separate, the family law system will favour the child being able to spend time and have a relationship with both of their parents unless it puts their safety in question.
So regardless of what the parents want, if they are unable to come to an agreement of how they will parent their child and the courts need to step in, the rights we mentioned above will prevail, and the aim will be for them to have a relationship with both parents.
Can a father get sole custody of a child?
It is possible for a father to have sole custody of his child or children. However, it’s important to remember that there is no black and white or definitive answer as every circumstance is unique.
For any parent, whether it is the father or the mother of a child, to have full sole parental responsibility of a child, it needs to be proven that the other parent is a danger to the safety of the child.
Some instances that a father may get full custody of his child include:
- Prove that the other parent is unable to adequately care and provide for the child, this could be due to financial difficulties, disinterest, or even health;
- The behaviour and lifestyle habits of the other parent puts the child at risk, such as abuse of drugs and alcohol;
- The other parent doesn’t prioritise the health and safety of their child; or
- There is a history (and/or risk) of abuse of any form – physical, mental, emotional, and sexual.
What factors does a court look at when deciding parenting orders?
When determining any parenting matters under Australian family law, the primary focus of the courts is to make decisions based on what is best for the child. However, when determining what is in a child’s best interests there are a number of factors that may impact this, including:
- The age of the child
- The distance between the parents’ households
- The nature of the post-separation relationship between the parents
- The work and other commitments of each parent
- The views of the child
- Any other issue that is relevant
The age of the child can have a big impact on the outcome of any parenting matter because there may be certain health care needs that one parent may be more able to provide. The views of the child are also considered, especially as children get older and can express their thoughts and opinions.
What can a father do to increase their chances of gaining sole parental responsibility?
If a father (or any parent) wishes to have full custody of their child, they need to ensure that this is indeed what they believe to be in their child’s best interests.
If a parent genuinely believes that the other parent is unfit to care for their child, then they need to be able to prove this. Some parents do fight for full custody of their children more so on the basis of their relationship with their child’s other parent rather than what is best for their child, which isn’t always the right thing to do.
Seeking legal advice from a family lawyer is one of the first steps a father should take when considering fighting for sole custody of their child. As child custody experts, a family lawyer can provide advice on the unique circumstances and help to determine whether sole custody is the best option and if so, what can be done to help increase their chances of gaining full custody.
A Final Word
Parenting and custody matters are highly complex and require the expertise of experienced family lawyers to ensure that a parent understands their legal standing and responsibilities. In cases of sole custody, a family lawyer can also help to determine whether this is likely to be considered to be in the best interests of the child.