Prime Lawyers

Family law: ‘in the best interests of the child’

Family law procedures in Australia provide a means to resolve the disputes that can arise during the separation of any family. In instances where reconciliation is not possible and divorce or separation result, the rights of children enter the equation, as well as issues of child welfare.

The road to resolution in family-law-related matters is governed at first stage by a number of processes available outside of the Family Law Court of Australia, examples of which are negotiation, mediation, arbitration and counselling. For the most part, families involved in separation or divorce attempt these alternative forms of resolution to avoid going to court, but this is not always possible.

In more complex cases, the court is involved in the decision-making process and these include allegations of child abuse and violence or where there are complicated questions of jurisdiction, such as international child abduction. The best interests of the child are of paramount importance when the court is deciding any case involving custody arrangements.

The Family Law Act 1975 highlights a number of the factors taken into account when considering whether proposed arrangements for children are beneficial, including the impact of being separated from a parent or sibling(s).

The court will also look at the ability of a parent to meet the needs of the child and the proposed new home environment, prioritising the need to protect the child from exposure to any kind of abusive behaviour. In cases of alleged abuse or violence, the Family Law Act makes provision to protect children from exposure to further abusive behaviour. In making a decision, the court will also be aware of protective orders that are already in place against a parent, such as an apprehended domestic violence order (ADVO).

An ADVO is taken out against a family member with a track record of violence, but can also apply to other behaviours such as harassment, stalking or intimidation. This type of court order is a form of protection from the violent or intimidating behaviour to which an individual has been exposed.

It is a criminal offence to breach an ADVO, incurring a fine of $5,500, two years in prison or a combination of both penalties. The court will place the best interests of children at the centre of a case involving family law matters, thoroughly assessing all aspects of the case before issuing its decision. If you are looking for family lawyers in Sydney, why not contact Prime Lawyers?

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