Can a Mother or Father Relinquish Their Parental Rights in Australia?

Legally relinquishing parental rights in Australia involves removing all rights and responsibilities from a parent, so they are no longer considered a child’s legal parent or guardian.

While there are cases in which terminating or relinquishing your parental rights in Australia may be considered by a court of law, it is typically a complicated process and is not something that should be taken lightly. If you are seeking to be absolved of parental rights or to get sole parental rights, you should consult an experienced family lawyer.

In this article, we provide an overview of parental rights and explain if someone can relinquish parental rights in Australia.


What are Parental Rights in Australia?

In Australia, parental rights refer to the rights a parent holds over their child, whereas parental responsibility refers to the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that parents have towards their children.

Parental rights in Australia include the right to bring your children up in accordance with your own values and beliefs, and to make decisions regarding your child’s religion, education and medical treatment (unless the child’s well-being is at risk).

Parental responsibilities in Australia include:

  • Protecting your child from harm
  • Providing your child with food, clothing, and shelter
  • Financially support your child
  • Providing safety, supervision, and control
  • Providing adequate medical care
  • Providing an education

The Family Law Act 1975 gives children the right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, even if the parents are separated or divorced. It also states that once a couple has completed the process of legal separation, they will typically share equal responsibility for their child’s welfare.

A parent is unable to simply choose to opt-out of these responsibilities and relinquish parental rights in Australia even after a separation, which is where matters such as child support come into play.

However, if the parents can reach an arrangement, they can sign a Consent Order relinquishing the parental rights of one parent in Australia.

However, there are also certain circumstances in which sole parental responsibility can be obtained by one of the parties against the wishes of the other, relinquishing the other party of both their parental rights and parental responsibilities.


When Can A Parent Receive Sole Parental Responsibility?

In general, courts assign sole parental responsibility when they determine that it will be in the best interests of the child to live only with one parent. That the parent should make all major decisions for the child’s welfare until they are 18.

Section 4 of the Family Law act states that these major decisions include the child’s:

  • Education
  • Name
  • Religious and cultural upbringing
  • Health and medical requirements
  • Name
  • Living arrangements

Courts may grant sole parental responsibility if the parents are unable to communicate effectively or have conflicting views around issues such as the child's education which cannot be resolved.

Since the child’s best interests are the priority of the court, courts may also grant sole parental responsibility in order to protect a child from physical harm, psychological harm, or exposure to violence or abuse. If one parent is causing harm to the child, the child may give sole parental responsibility to the other parent in order to keep the child safe.

In order for a parent to receive sole parental responsibility, they must provide the court with extensive detail on all matters relevant to their claims against the other parent, including any police reports or witnesses corroborating allegations of psychological or physical harm to the child.


Have Legal Questions About Parental Rights In Australia?

If you are negotiating parental obligations, our experienced family lawyers can work with you to ensure the best possible outcome. We have over 30 years’ experience dealing with family law issues, as well as matters relating to divorce and spousal maintenance. Our lawyers are familiar with situations involving sole parental responsibility, and are here to help. Please contact us to make an appointment for an initial telephone call. You can also call us to speak to one of our Brisbane specialist family lawyers (07) 3144 1641 or one of our Gold Coast specialist family lawyers (07) 5526 3646.