Shared Care Arrangements in Family Law Parenting Disputes

Is there a difference between 5 nights in a fortnight and 7 nights in a fortnight for child parenting arrangements? 

Rowan Skinner & Associates Lawyers are Family Law accredited specialist who specialize in high conflict parenting disputes in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. Child custody and access (time) disputes can occupy a lot of time and cause anxiety for parents, trying to resolve child disputes.





We attended Foley’s breakfast event and there were discussions surrounding parenting arrangements, which often revolve around the allocation of time. Shared care usually is a 9/5 split, a 7/7 arrangement, or an 8/6 division. While parents may fiercely contest a few extra nights with their children, the pivotal questions are whether more time equates to ‘meaningful time’ and if the incremental addition of one or two nights significantly impacts a child’s well-being. Many reporters say that it does not.

Quantity vs. Quality: One of the core debates in family law revolves around the concept of “quantity vs. quality.” While many parents fight for additional nights with their children, it’s essential to remember that time alone does not necessarily translate to a better parenting arrangement. Quality of interaction, emotional support, and a nurturing environment are equally, if not more, crucial factors in fostering a meaningful parent-child relationship.

Understanding Shared Care: Shared care arrangements come in various forms, from equal time splits to more traditional arrangements where one parent has primary custody. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks, and the “ideal” arrangement often varies depending on the specific needs and dynamics of the family in question.

Expert Opinions:

  • Difference between 9/5 and 7/7 or 8/6: Many report writers say there is no difference and suggest that the quality of the time spent with each parent matters more than the quantity.
  • Reporter Papaleo’s Perspective: Papaleo says that some children may prefer living primarily at one parent’s house while enjoying scheduled visits to the other parent’s residence. This perspective highlights the importance of considering the child’s individual preferences and comfort levels in any parenting arrangement.

Factors to Consider When Advising Clients Who Want Equal Shared Time:

  • The parties’ capacity to communicate on matters relevant to the child’s welfare.
    • The physical proximity of the two households.
    • Are the homes sufficiently proximate that the child can maintain their friendships in both homes?
    • The prior history of caring for the child. Have the parties demonstrated that they can implement a 50/50 living arrangement without undermining the child’s adjustment?
    • Whether the parties agree or disagree on matters relevant to the child’s day to day life. For example, methods of discipline, attitudes to homework, health and dental care, diet and sleeping pattern.
    • Where they disagree on these matters the likelihood that they would be able to reach a reasonable compromise.
    • Do they share similar ambitions for the child? For example, religious adherence, cultural identity and extra-curricular activities.
    • Can they address on a continuing basis the practical considerations that arise when a child lives in 2 homes? If the child leaves necessary schoolwork or equipment at the other home will the parents readily rectify the problem?
    • Whether or not the parties respect the other party as a parent.
    • The child’s wishes and the factors that influence those wishes.
    • Where siblings live.

Conclusion: While more time with a child is valuable, it is not the sole determinant of a successful arrangement.  Experts agree that the quality of interaction, emotional support, and the child’s developmental stage play crucial roles in determining what constitutes ‘meaningful time.’ Ultimately, the goal should be to create an environment that fosters the child’s well-being and allows them to thrive.

The law on parenting arrangements is about to change dramatically. The requirement of reasonable practicality of an arrange will be removed from the Family Law Act section on parenting arrangements. We urge you to get legal advice before agreeing to Parenting orders.

If you have a child who may be struggling with their sexuality, alienation from the other parents, a child with special needs or the subject of family violence, contact us at RSAL for a no obligation discussion. We are child custody lawyers in Clifton Hill, Northcote, Thornbury, Alphington, Heidelberg and Ivanhoe. Call us on 9995 9155.

Alicia Truong

Rowan Skinner

About Rowan Skinner

Rowan Skinner is a highly skilled family lawyer with over 35 years of experience across various legal roles and jurisdictions. Rowan specialises in resolving family law disputes such as divorce, financial settlements, child custody and domestic violence cases. Through his diverse and extensive experience, Rowan has a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances involved in family law. Rowan is a skilled negotiator and litigator who follows a compassionate and client-focused approach which prioritises helping you navigate what can be an emotional and challenging time.

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