Who is a guardian? 

A guardian of a child is a person who has the duties, powers, rights and responsibilities of a parent in relation to the upbringing of a child, which lasts until the child turns 18 years, or enters a marriage or de facto relationship, whichever is the earlier event.  A mother is a “natural guardian” by virtue of giving birth to a child.  The child’s father will also be a guardian providing he was married to the mother, or living in a de facto relationship with the mother at any time between the conception and birth of the child.  A father will be a guardian if his name is on the child’s birth certificate and the child was born after 1 July 2005.  Additional guardians can be appointed (such as a parent’s new spouse or partner) through an application to the Court, provided certain criteria are met.

What does a guardian do?

Guardians are responsible for providing the day to day of the child, contributing to the child’s intellectual, emotional, physical, social, cultural and personal development, and determining important matters relating to the child.  These “important matters”, over which guardians are required by law to consult with each other about, include the child’s name, place of residence, medical treatment, education and religion.

What happens if guardians cannot agree? 

Guardians must consult with each other on important matters relating to a child.  However, oftentimes when a couple has separated they find it difficult to agree on matters such as the child’s schooling or place of residence (particularly if one parent/guardian wants to relocate to another town).  A guardian is not permitted to unilaterally make these decisions for the child.  When guardians are unable to reach agreement on the exercise of a guardianship matter either guardian may request counselling through the Family Court, or apply to the Court for a direction to resolve the dispute.  It is recommended that this be done with the help of your lawyer.

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