Shared care in Australia means that a child spends at least 35% of the time (5 or more nights per fortnight) with each parent.
- The definition is used in assessing child support and government benefits (DHS).
- Under shared care, both parents are eligible for child support and Family Tax Benefit Part A.
- Shared care is good for children, even if the parents don't get on, even if their parenting styles are different, and even if there's a lot of care changeovers (Psychology Today).
Making Shared Care Work
Shared care is good for children because it gives them a high level of access to both parents. For it to work well, the parents need to live reasonably close to the schools attended by the child(ren).
Also, conflict between parents should be avoided. Ideally, shared cared parenting is done like this:
- Each parent provides a stable, self-contained home environment.
- Changeovers happen naturally via school or other care.
- Parents consistently stick to timetables unless otherwise agreed.
- Communication between parents is business-like and care focused.
Allowing Shared Care to Happen
If you wanted to stop parents agreeing on shared care, you would create a reward for getting contact time with children. That's what Australia's current child support scheme does. As detailed in A Fairer, Better System, the scheme inflates care costs, giving a significant financial incentive for parents to fight over care. Reform would make support assessments more reflective of the actual costs of raising children in Australia.