One of the primary considerations when determining what is in a child’s best interests is “the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence”: Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (‘FLA’) s 60CC. This consideration is given greater weight than the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
In a family law matter whether it be in a lengthy litigation battle or attempting to settle matters outside of court, the most frequent issue that arises is not a question of law but of fact. Specifically, how much is a particular asset or liability worth. A valuation may then be required to resolve the dispute regarding the value of the item.
Parents with children under the age of 18 years have a responsibility to financially support and provide for their children. When marriages or de facto relationships break down causing the parents to separate, that financial responsibility to their children does not end. As a result, the primary carer is usually entitled to receive money from the non-primary carer to assist with providing for the children. This is to pay for food, clothing, education expenses and the day to day expenses in raising children. This payment occurs by way of child support.
When children are taken and not returned to their usual parent at the agreed upon time and location it can be cause for serious alarm. Questions like “Where are my children?” “Are my children safe?” “How do I get them back?” arise. The Court has a clear process for the recovery of children if children are kidnapped.
The Duty of Disclosure
The Family Law Act 1975 states that the best interests of the children are served by a meaningful relationship with both parents in a safe environment. Where there are allegations of abuse or harm, it needs to be considered how best to facilitate time with mum and dad in a safe manner. Accordingly, supervised contact may be an appropriate solution.
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.
Last month, the Australian Law Reform Commission (‘ALRC’) released its report, ‘Family Law for the Future – An Inquiry into the Family Law System’ (‘the Report’). The ALRC spent 18 months working on the inquiry, which was headed by the Honourable Justice Sarah Derrington.
With the update of the Family Violence Plan in April 2019, the Courts have continued to recognise the importance of protecting those experiencing family violence, and the detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of separating partners and children in situations of family violence.
The Australian family law system is currently undergoing many changes, leading to a highly politicised and uncertain environment that has only exacerbated issues with the court system. While it may seem that governments and lawyers alike are the only beneficiaries of the inefficiencies of the family law jurisdiction, one form of alternative dispute resolution is on the verge of making a great resurgence that may make clients the real winner.