There exist so many myths around family law. Let’s look at
dispelling some of them.
“It is called custody” – FALSE
It is not. Once upon a time phrasing of this kind was used,
however it isn’t today and that is because we have moved
towards other phrasing such as: ‘care arrangements’,
‘spend time with’ or ‘parenting Orders’.
“The Mum will get the kids” -
This is a common one and the reason that this myth continues is
because, more often than not, it is the Mum who ends up being the
primary carer or spending more time with the children. This
isn’t because the law favours the Mum. The law doesn’t care
if you are Mum or Dad. When it comes to the kids, the paramount
consideration is: ‘what is in their best interests?’.
If parents have equal shared parental responsibility, the Court
must consider whether equal time with each of them is both in the
child or children’s best interest, and whether it is reasonably
If it isn’t, the Court must consider whether substantial and
significant time with each parent is best for the children and
again, reasonably practical.
Substantial and significative includes both days that fall on
weekdays, weekends, holidays and allows the parent to be involved
in the children’s daily routine and occasions of significance.
‘Reasonably practical’ is a consideration of things such as
how far apart the parents live, whether the care arrangements can
be implemented and how it may impact upon the child or children,
and the parents’ ability to communicate with each other.
If parents do not have equal shared parental responsibility, the
Court will have regard to the best interests of the child in making
any parenting Orders.
To determine what is in a child’s best interests, a whole
lot of factors are considered by the Court and the list of factors
under the Family Law Act 1 is not exhaustive.
The matters a Court will consider are open-ended, and it needs to
be open-ended to accommodate for the differences in families.
The primary factor to be considered is the children maintaining
a meaningful relationship with both parents whilst protecting a
child/children from harm, neglect, or violence.
The Court can also consider such factors as the nature of the
relationship between the parents and their children, the capacity
of each parent to provide for the needs of the children and any
wishes the children may express (having regard to the
child’s/children’s age and level of understanding).
After considering these factors, and the family before them, it
is true that often it is Mum who is found to be the primary
attachment figure and who has the capacity, by virtue of her
working commitments, to provide the care the children may need.
But that isn’t true of every family, and it certainly
isn’t true of families today and that is why the law allows the
Court to consider each family individually.
“But we didn’t live together full-time, so we
aren’t a de facto couple” –
The Court’s enquiry is whether having regard to all of the
circumstances, did the two people appearing before it have a
relationship as a couple, whether or not they lived together in the
To enliven the jurisdiction of the Court, the relationship has
to be one of at least two years, be one which produced a
child/children, was one registered or of a kind that the
contributions are such that the Court not making an Order would
result in an injustice to one party.
In considering the length and nature of the relationship, the
enquiry of the Court is also whether there was a place that they
lived or spent time together, whether they enjoyed a sexual
relationship, whether they mixed finances and/or used and acquired
property together and how they presented their relationship to
family and others.
Case law tells us that the term ‘living together’ does
not necessary mean on a full-time basis.
Provided the right factors exist, this opens up the field for
all kinds of relationships (including, for example, extra marital
ones) to be considered as ‘de facto relationships’ for the
purposes of an application for property settlement.
“Superannuation is not included in the division of
assets” – FALSE
Superannuation is an asset and forms part of the pool of
property to be divided between partners.
“I can make them pay for my costs” –
The general rule is that parties involved in family law
proceedings each pay their own legal costs.
I have written an article about costs in Family Law and you can
find it here, for more information:
Have you heard a myth and want to know whether it is true? We
are here to help.
1 Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), Section
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.