If you are a parent and getting a divorce, you may encounter the issue of “sole vs joint custody”.

The terms “custody” and “access” are no longer used in the Family Law Act but they are terms commonly used when talking about arrangements for children.  It is important to understand the difference between “sole custody” and “joint custody”, but also legal and physical custody.

These terms are often confused, so let’s break them down and explore each option.

Sole vs Joint Custody

Sole custody is legally known as sole parental responsibility. This means that one person or parent alone has the capacity make decisions for their child or children. These decisions could relate to where the family lives, what school a child attends, what medical care they receive, what religion they are brought up in, if any, and what name they are known by.

Joint custody is called shared parental responsibility in the Family Law system. This means that both parents (or guardians) need to agree on significant decisions affecting the child’s or children’s welfare.  One parent cannot make these decisions on their own, without consulting and agreeing with the other parent.

Physical vs Legal Custody

Many people hear the word ‘custody’ and they assume it means a child or the children live only with one parent. However there is a difference between physical and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to where your child or children live. This could be with one parent, or shared between parents so children spend some time with each. Depending on the welfare of the child and where the parents live, there may be practical decisions to be made as to where a child should live and how long they spend with each parent.

Legal custody, in common language, refers to who is responsible for the legal decisions regarding your children. These could be related to their education, religion, health or other areas of their life.

How Is Custody Assessed?

There is one key thing that the courts will consider when it comes to custody arrangements: what is in the child’s best interest? The courts are focused on the rights of the child, rather than the rights of each parent. It often said that only children have rights under the Family Law; parents have responsibilities!

If the court can see that the child will benefit from maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents (and this is a basic presumption of the Family Law), it can be likely that joint physical custody is decided.

Avoiding Custody Disputes With Family Mediation

If you would prefer to come to a mutual agreement with your ex regarding the custody of your child or children, mediation is an option.  In fact, the Family Law requires that mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution is undertaken before legal action is commenced.

Family mediation is usually quicker and more amicable than dragging your separation or divorce through legal channels. Mediation is a much more affordable option too. If you want to save money and resolve your family dispute swiftly with less stress, speak to our Perth mediation specialist today.

Move On Mediation offers family mediation services in Perth that help you move on with your life quickly and without breaking the bank.

Call Ian for a confidential chat on 0418 928 448 or get in touch online now.