Every matter involving parenting arrangements is different; they each have their own uniqueness that requires careful consideration by the court. However, across all cases, the court’s key consideration is what is in the best interests of the child.
Geisler v Geisler  is a recent decision by Judge Harman that demonstrates the circumstantial nature of parenting matters.
Geisler v Geisler was an ongoing court matter of three years. The mother was struggling with anxiety as a single parent and the father was a recovering alcoholic. The father had gradually increasing supervised time with the young children, with it slowly building up to unsupervised care if the father continued with his sobriety.
The court needed to be satisfied that the children would not be exposed to an unacceptable risk of harm while in the father’s care. Supervised contact had been ongoing for two years but was considered an artificial environment that could not be sustained long term. The court recognises the stress that litigation proceedings places upon families. As such they prefer for matters to be dealt with in a timely fashion to ensure the best interests of the child are upheld. However, given the nature of the father’s alcohol abuse, family violence and mental health issues, the court felt that it was appropriate in this case to adjourn the matter for twelve months with the interim orders made to continue the father’s road to recovery and restoration with the children. It was not appropriate to rush this matter, as the justice of the children having a meaningful relationship with their father in accordance with their best interests outweighed the need to quickly determine the matter.
This case is a perfect example that each parenting matter is different, with different complexities that need to be addressed to ensure the outcome reached is in the best interests of the child.
As much as parents can argue and bicker and try to prove what an ideal parent they are, the court is only concerned with, what type of parenting arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. For example, if there is a mother with a drug addiction, she is not the suitable parent to have the primary care of that child.
The court seeks to ensure that the child has a meaningful relationship with both parents yet is also protected from the risk of harm and family violence. The court does not like to exclude one parent from a child’s life, although it may do this if that is in the child’s best interests. Although a parent may have a criminal history or be affected by mental health, the court will encourage that the child sees that parent depending upon the individual circumstances, usually by way of a supervised contact at a contact centre, like Relationships Australia. However, if the risk is too high to the child then that contact will be denied.
Although the family law system has a defined law and framework, the advice and outcomes for each family will vary. It is integral that you get the right legal advice tailored to your situation.
If you or someone you know is going through a family separation and is not sure what the best solution is for their parenting arrangements, then contact Katherine McCarthy at email@example.com
This is not legal advice.