Shared child custody arrangements increasing

Date: Sep 01, 2011

Research released by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) shows that the number of separated families making use of shared child custody arrangements has been increasing over the last five years.

Data used in the report was sourced from various official providers, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Child Support Agency's administrative database and unrestricted court files, as well as the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families undertaken by the AIFS in 2008.

The research - to be published in the latest release of the Family Matters journal - indicates that the number of partners entering into shared or near shared care-time agreements has risen from nine per cent in 2006 to 17 per cent in 2011.

In this case, the term "shared care" is used to mean arrangements in which the children spend a similar number of nights with each parent.

This differs from the interpretation used in the Child Support Scheme of 2008, which defines shared care as existing when 35 to 65 per cent of nights are spent with each parent.

The paper goes on to say that the increase in these sorts of arrangements may be due to the dynamic shifts that are prevalent in society today, with parents dividing the care of children more than in previous decades.

Another factor identified by the research is that the number of court orders that require shared care has increased over the last five years.

Commenting on these figures, the minister for human services Tanya Plibersek said: "The proportion of judicially-decided cases resulting in shared care time increased from four per cent before the 2006 family law reforms to 34 per cent post-reform."

Of children whose parents were separated for an average of 15 months, up to 16 per cent were shown to be in a shared care-time arrangement as of 2008, with a total of seven per cent being in an equal care-time arrangement.

Attorney-general Robert McClelland said: "It is vital that both parents have meaningful involvement in their children's lives following separation.

"I'm pleased that the research shows an increase in the number of children who regularly spend time with both their parents."

The process of entering into a shared arrangement with an ex-partner can seem daunting at times, but trusted legal advice from an experienced family lawyer can help give parents the confidence to do what is best for their children.