The equal shared parental responsibility principle ensures the right of divorced or separated parents to care for their child. This principle does not require that parents spend equal time with their child but it goes back to the essence of being a parent. Equal shared parenting responsibility means equal duties, power and responsibilities in caring for the children. Parents must equally share the decision making with regard to their children on matters like education, religion, living arrangements and medical treatment.
The law deems it in the best interest of the child to have a meaningful relationship with both of his parents. Thus, parents who have not been prohibited from having contact must be permitted access to their children. Only if there are allegations of family violence or child abuse can a parent be denied access or contact with his child. In the absence of any threat of harm to the child he has the right to spend considerable time with his parents.
In making a parenting order, the court may order equal time to be spent by a parent with his child and the parent must comply. The order may also be for a substantial and significant time spent with a child. In both instances, the primary consideration of the court is what is in the best interests of the child, whether it is equal time or substantial and significant time.
Basically, the limitation to a parent’s right of access to his children is the best interests of the child. Naturally, an unfit parent will have to face the consequence of spending limited time with his child. This is because the court will not unnecessarily expose the child to harm or even bad influence.
Many oppose the principle of equal shared parental responsibility on the ground that the shared parenting arrangement would put a child at risk to family violence or child abuse. However, this principle is tempered with the principle of prioritizing first the child’s best interests. The safety and well-being of the child is over and above more important than a parent’s right to be with his child.