In the absence of court orders to the contrary, each of the parents of a child under the age of 18 years is a guardian of the child, and the parents have joint responsibility for the child [Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) ss 61B and 61C].
Parents (and guardians) have the right to:
- determine the child's upbringing and education
- to discipline the child (including reasonable physical punishment)
- consent to the child's adoption
- take legal proceedings on their behalf.
Parents (and guardians) have the duty:
- to maintain the child, a primary duty imposed equally on both parents [Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) ss 66B and 66C and Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) ss 3 and 4], see CHILD SUPPORT
- to send the child to school once he or she reaches 6 years of age, and until he or she reaches 16 years of age (until 17 if they have not completed a qualifications) (unless exempted), [Education Act 1972 (SA) ss 5 and 76]
- to obtain medical attention for a child who is ill.
Generally, the law does not intervene between a parent and a child unless the parent abuses, neglects, fails to maintain or cannot control the child.
In more serious cases, a parent could face criminal charges relating to criminal neglect in circumstances where a child dies or suffers harm as a result of a specific act, omission or course of conduct. This applies where the parent owes a duty of care to the child, is aware or ought to be aware that harm would be caused to the child by the act, and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harm from happening [Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) ss 13B, 14]. A parent can also be charged with a criminal offence for failing to provide necessary food, clothing or accommodation to a child without lawful excuse [s 14A].
Any disputes about the children (for example, where parents separate and then contest where their children will live and when they will spend time with each parent) these issues will be decided according to what the court considers is in the child's best interests [Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) ss 60B]. For more information, see FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, Arrangements for children.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.