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Law Reform for Shared-Time Parenting after Separation – Reflections from Australia

Elizabeth Keogh, Bruce Smyth & Alexander Masardo

(2018) 30 SAcLJ 518

Shared-time parenting is an emerging family form in many Western countries. Legislative reform in Australia in 2006 introduced a presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility” and a requirement that courts explicitly consider the making of orders which provide for children to spend “equal time” or “substantial and significant time” with each parent. These reforms occurred in the context of an already increasing prevalence of shared-time parenting arrangements. In this article, we highlight key changes to family law legislation in Australia over the last four decades which evidence an increasing emphasis on the involvement of both parents in a child’s life after separation. We then turn to demography, identifying some common characteristics of families who adopt shared-time parenting arrangements and exploring the prevalence and incidence of shared-time arrangements, in particular, considering whether prevalence and incidence appear to have been affected by legislative reform. The article concludes by offering some reflections for other countries on the Australian experience of legislating to encourage shared parenting in the broadest sense.