Deciding children's best interests
When negotiating or applying for a parenting order it is important to make sure the proposal is workable and in the children’s best interests. The court will consider what is best for the children by looking at the following primary (most important) and additional (other) considerations.
The primary considerations are:
- The benefit of children having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
- The need to protect children from physical and psychological harm. This includes children seeing family violence, being neglected, or being physically or psychologically hurt.
The need to protect a child from physical and psychological harm, including family violence and abuse will be given the highest priority.
The additional considerations are:
- Children’s views – the court will look at how much children understand and how mature they are. Children do not have to express views if they prefer not to.
- The kind of relationship children have with their parents and other significant people, including grandparents, siblings and other relatives.
- The court must also consider how much each parent has participated in making decisions about major long-term issues affecting the children:
- how much time each parent has spent and communicated with the children during and after the relationship, and
- whether each parent has maintained the children or failed to do so, for example by paying child support on time.
- The likely effect of any change to where children have been living or staying, including separating them from either parent, grandparents, siblings, any other relatives or other people important to their welfare.
- The practical difficulty and expense of children seeing each parent, and whether that difficulty will affect their right to have a relationship with each parent. This includes spending time and/or communicating with each parent.
- How much each parent and any other person (including grandparents and other relatives) can provide for the children’s physical, emotional and intellectual needs.
- The children’s and each parent’s maturity, background (including culture and traditions), sex and lifestyle, and anything else about the children the court thinks is important.
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children’s right to enjoy their culture (including with others of that culture).
- Each parent’s attitude to the responsibilities of being a parent and towards their children in general.
- Any family violence involving the children or their family member.
- Any interim, final, non-contested or police issued family violence orders that include children or their family member.
- Whether the orders the people involved have applied for will reduce the risk of further court proceedings.
- Any other considerations the court thinks important.
The court can also look at:
- The history of the relationship and the children’s care.
- The events and circumstances that have happened since the parents separated.
If your child is in someone else's care and you think they may be in danger, contact the police and get legal advice.
It is a matter for the police whether they take action.
Considering children's views
When making parenting orders, the court does not usually hear directly from children, although it can. Children do not usually go into court.
Children’s attitudes and views may be made known to the court in a family report or through an independent children’s lawyer.