Family law matters, especially child custody decisions, have seen significant changes in pattern in recent years. In most families, both parents are equally involved in caregiving and financially providing for the child, which could be the cause of such a substantial change in child custody arrangements. Let us take a look at the statistics and see how child custody arrangements have changed in Australia.


Exploring Key Custody Statistics: Understanding the Distribution of Child Custody Between Mothers and Fathers


As per the 2014 survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), mothers are given sole parental responsibility in 27% of cases, as opposed to 2% of cases where the father is given sole responsibility. Likewise, mothers are granted a majority of time with the child in 46% of cases, whereas fathers get to spend most time with their children only in 3% of cases. Interestingly, in around 21% of cases, both parents end up with shared care and time arrangements.


Taking a more detailed look into the statistics, we find that in 9% of cases, the mother has sole responsibility of the child while the father never gets to see them, and in 18% of cases, the father sees the children only during the daytime. Furthermore, the statistics also show that in 12% of cases, the mothers get to spend the majority of the time, that is, 87% to 99% of the time, whereas the fathers get to spend only 1% to 13% of the time with the children. On the other hand, it is also clear that in 1% of cases, the fathers spend the majority of the time, which is about 87% to 99%, whereas the mothers get to spend only 1% to 13% of the time. To add on, there are also cases where sole custody is with the fathers, and mothers get to see their children only during the day or never.


Whatever the custody arrangement, it is important to note that the decisions have been made by the Court after considering several factors and keeping in mind the best interests of the child, even if it means forfeiting the rights and interests of the parents. Furthermore, it is also considered how the parenting and caregiving responsibilities were shared between the partners before separation, and the same is arranged for after separation too. The aim is to maintain as much stability in the life of the child as possible, even after the separation of the parents.


Parental Decision-Making: Analysing Pathways Chosen by Parents to Organise Parental Arrangements


As per the statistics, 16% of the couples that have chosen to go separate ways seek professional assistance in getting the disputes resolved. Out of this, only 3% go to court for parenting arrangements. Let us take a closer look at the numbers and analyse.


Statistics reveal that a majority of couples, about 68.9%, prefer talking it out among themselves to reach an agreement about sharing parental responsibilities. More fathers (71.5%) than mothers (66.5%) are inclined towards discussing the arrangements with the other parent. Around 10% of the separating couples affirm that there was no specific approach to organising parental arrangements and that it just happened naturally. Furthermore, about 9.9% of couples seek the help of Family Dispute Resolution services or some form of counselling or mediation. 5.7% of couples hire a lawyer, and 2.9% go to the courts to get a fair decision on parental arrangements.


Approaches to Parental Responsibilities: Examining 3 Methods Used for Ordering Parental Responsibilities


There are three main methods for ordering parental responsibilities, and parents can choose one of more of these approaches.


Pure Consent

In this method, both parents discuss and arrive at an agreement about parental arrangements and carry through with them. As per the AIFS study, 92% of the couples that arrange parental responsibilities by pure consent tend to share the parental responsibilities cordially. Around 4% of couples decide that the mother will have the sole responsibility, while 3% of couples decide that the father will take full responsibility. This indicates that when parental arrangements are made by pure consent, there is almost an equal chance for both fathers and mothers to get full custody.


Consent After Litigation

In this approach, parents arrive at an agreement after starting the legal process but before the judgement is handed down. Just as in cases of pure consent, couples consenting after litigation also mostly decide on shared parental responsibility. Studies show that about 94% of the couples who take the consent after litigation approach agree to share parental responsibility amicably.


Adjudicated Matters

In this approach, the Judge decides the parental arrangement and rules after considering various factors that primarily uphold the best interests of the child. As compared to pure consent and consent after litigation processes, there is a lesser chance of getting a judgement favouring shared parental responsibility when the judge makes a decision.


Overview of Parental Responsibility Outcomes: Summarising Parental Responsibility Outcomes Based on the Method of Parental Order


Looking more closely into the statistical numbers of parental responsibility outcomes based on the method of parental order, certain patterns become clear. However, before we delve into the numbers, it is important to understand how the law works in matters related to parental responsibility decisions.


As per the Family Law Act, the courts can decide on parental responsibility and care time. The decisions are made after careful consideration of the child’s right to maintain meaningful relationships with both the parents and their right to be protected from harm, which includes domestic violence and child abuse. When a family decides to seek professional help by hiring a lawyer to help organise an agreeable parenting arrangement, they have two options. Legally, the parents can get a parenting plan, which is generally a non-enforceable plan that is recommended by the lawyer and agreed upon by the parents. Alternatively, parents can get consent orders, which are legally enforceable written agreements that are registered with the court.


Now, let us take a detailed look at the statistics of the outcomes of parental responsibilities in the different kinds of parental orders. While 91% of couples choosing to agree with pure consent end up with shared parental responsibility, only 39.8% of cases that go through adjudication end up with shared responsibility. To add on, 93.7% of couples that opt for consent after litigation end up with shared parental responsibilities.


When it comes to assigning full responsibility to the mother, 3.9% of couples taking the pure consent approach agree to it, while 3.7% of couples who go for consent after litigation concur. When the matter goes to court, about 3.9% of cases end up granting sole custodianship to the mother. However, when it comes to sole responsibility to the father, 2.5% of couples that go through pure consent agree to the same, and 1.8% of couples that go through consent after litigation agree to it. The judge grants sole responsibility to the father in 2.5% of cases that come through adjudication. There are other parental arrangements made based on the unique factors that affect the case. These cases account for 1.9% of cases through pure consent, 0.8% of cases through consent after litigation, and 1.9% of adjudicated cases.


To understand these numbers more clearly and to get the right kind of guidance in obtaining a parental arrangement order, contact our family lawyers today!