Equal shared parental responsibility ordered, despite ‘toxic relationship’ and ‘mutual disrespect’

family law casenotes

In Reddin & Bickett [2022] FedCFamC1F 910 (23 November 2022), Kari J heard a parenting application in relation to children of 8 and 6 years old, where “almost every independent expert that has had dealings” with the children had “formed a very dim view of the parents, their levels of conflict, and their enmeshment of the children in their dispute” ([6]).

Each parent sought sole parental responsibility and that the children live with them. The independent children’s lawyer sought orders, in the alternative, that either the children live with the mother and spend alternate weekends with the father, or that the children spend equal time between their parents via a week about arrangement ([70]).

The court said (from [88]):

“ … [T]he overwhelming impression that I formed during the trial was that both parents were keen to deflect blame and justify their actions. (…)

[167] … [The family report writer] made it clear that the biggest impediment to the children having settled and workable living arrangements, was the parents themselves. [Her] opinion was that if these parents committed to abiding by Court orders and supporting the children’s relationship with the other of them, then any arrangement providing for the children to have regular time with both parents was able to be achieved and sustained. (…)

[187] … I … hold concerns about the parents’ poor attitude towards each other and the impact that this is likely to have on their ongoing co-parenting dynamic. (…)


[199] … [O]ften … such findings would suggest that it is best that the children have a primary base with one parent, and very limited time spending with the other parent. (…)

[202] … [W]here both parents from time to time seem incapable of prioritising their children’s needs ahead of their own desire to inflict harm on the other of them, the court is left in an invidious position of fashioning a parenting arrangement that does the least harm to these children. (…)

[204] … [I]n circumstances where both parents have contributed to the current state of affairs, there … exists no proper basis to rebut the presumption that the parties should equally share parental responsibility for the children. (…)

[207] … I am most concerned to implement an arrangement that would see the children maintaining a secure and meaningful relationship with both of their parents …

[209] … [T]he children should live in a week about equal shared care arrangement.”

Craig Nicol and Keleigh Robinson are co-editors of The Family Law Book. Both are accredited specialists in family law (Queensland and Victoria, respectively). The Family Law Book is a one-volume loose-leaf and online family law service (

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