Looking out for number one
Child custody decisions are child focused and always made with the best interest of the child in mind.
It’s generally considered to be in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents.
However, the reality is that navigating these relationships can be extremely complicated, and , there are certain circumstances that do warrant the limiting of time with one parent. These are rarer cases which may involve abuse.
The decisions around child custody will often impact your child’s development and may go so far as to affect the child’s relationship with you or your spouse. Every decision should be made with the welfare of the child in mind, and where appropriate, with input from professionals who are familiar with the gravity of each child-related decision that is made.
Family Dispute Resolution
Before an application can be made to the Court to make a decision on parenting, the parties are required to attend Family Dispute Resolution (FDR).
The parents must show that they have made a genuine attempt to resolve their parenting issues before they can bring an application to Court.
The Courts are already faced with a heavy caseload, and mandatory FDR allows parents to resolve issues amicably while saving costs and freeing up the court system for more urgent matters.
When it comes to Court, there are two types of considerations that the Court will take into account when determining what is in the best interests of the child.
The first, and paramount consideration is the benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents. In general, the Courts will find that a healthy relationship with both parents will be beneficial to the child and will encourage both parents to do the things necessary to maintain such a relationship.
The second consideration is the protection of the child from psychological or physical harm and shielding them from exposure or being subject to abuse, neglect or family violence.
However, the Court will generally place greater weight on the second consideration to take the child out of harm’s way.
The Court will also take into consideration a range of other factors when making decisions for a child.
Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the Court may also take into account the child’s wishes.
Each parent’s capability to attend to the child’s welfare and to maintain an ongoing and healthy relationship with the child is also important.
If the child is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, additional considerations about ensuring the child is exposed and familiar with their cultural history will also be considered.
Independent Children’s Lawyer
Occasionally, on application by the child or by the Court’s own volition, an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) may be appointed.
The role of an ICL is to provide an objective opinion about what is in the best interests of the child.
They are an unbiased third party and have no alliance with either the father or their mother. Their job is to advocate for what is best for the child in every decision making process.
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The information provided in this article is provided by way of general information only. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Specific independent legal advice should be obtained before deciding to act, or not to act, upon the views expressed or information contained in this article.
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