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How the Court decides what is in a Child's Best Interests


Watson and Watson were consulted by Jennifer who had separated from her husband Paul 11 months earlier.  Jennifer and Paul lived close to each other in separate houses. They  had not been able to establish a pattern of living arrangements for the two children aged 9 and 11.The children attended the same school and both had weekend sporting commitments. Each week, and especially on weekends, disputes arose as to where the children would be living and what activities would take place

Jennifer consulted Watson & Watson in relation to how she might resolve the issue.  Jennifer and Paul had been to Mediation and attempted to negotiate a Parenting Plan but could not reach an agreement. Jennifer wanted to understand how the Court would determine the case if no agreement was reached and a Judge decided what the arrangements should made.

The Court considers the matter by putting the children’s best interest first. The children’s best interests are paramount.  The Court in determining what is best for the children, lookS at the provisions of section 60CC of the Family Law Act.

The factors that are considered are:- 

1.         The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with each of the child's parents.

2.         The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.

3.         Any views expressed by the child and any factors (such as the child's maturity or level of understanding) that the Court thinks are relevant to the weight it should give to the child's views;

4.         The nature of the relationship of the child with each of the child’s parents and other persons:(including any grandparent or other relative of the child);

5.         The extent to which each of the child 's parents has taken, or failed to take, the opportunity to participate in making decisions in relation to major long term issues, has failed to spend time with the child or communicate with the child.

6.         The extent to which each of the child‘s parents has fulfilled, or failed to fulfil, the parent's obligations to maintain the child.

7.         The likely effect of any changes in the child 's circumstances, including the likely effect on the child of any separation from either of his parents or any other child or person or relative with whom the child has been living.

8.         The practical difficulty and expense of a child spending time with and communicating with a parent and whether that difficulty or expense will substantially affect the child's right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with each parent on a regular basis;

9.         The capacity of each of the child's parents and   any other person (including any grandparent or other relative of the child) to provide for the needs of the child, including emotional and intellectual needs;

10.       The maturity, sex, lifestyle and background (including lifestyle, culture and traditions) of the child and of either of the child's parents, and any other characteristics of the child that the court thinks are relevant;

11.       The attitude to the child, and to the responsibilities of parenthood, demonstrated by each of the child's parents;

12.       Any family violence involving the child or a member of the child 's family.

14.       Whether it would be preferable to make the order that would be least likely to lead to the institution of further proceedings in relation to the child;

15.       The willingness and ability of each of the children’s parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the children and the other parent.

16.       The effect on the children if spending equal time, or substantial and significant time, with each parent having regard to parent’s current and future capacity to implement such arrangement and communicate with each other should difficulties arise.

Even though there are some cases that require the decision of the Court, Watson & Watson have years of experience and have been assisting parents and other relevant persons to resolve the dispute by negotiations and by Consent Orders made by the Court.

Please do not hesitate to contact Richard Watson or Dennis Grant to discuss any concerns or queries you may have in relation to achieving the best outcome for the children in terms of their living arrangements and weekly activities.

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