Protecting children during family law disputes

Protecting children during family law disputes

Because children are defenceless, the court regards their interests and protection as being absolutely paramount. In other words, children must be able to enjoy a safe environment with as little disruption to their lives as possible while mum and dad are trying to reach agreement.

Unfortunately, sometimes one parent may feel they are being unfairly prevented by the other from visiting the children. Emotion and frustration builds, and before long that parent makes a detrimental decision, like the father who jumped the fence, grabbed his child and ran. That action resulted in the court ordering the return of the child to the mother, and the father being prevented from seeing the child for 12 months.

A parent abducting their own child is a federal offence, and that type of behaviour does nothing to help their case. Indeed, it can lead to a criminal conviction which will likely impact the parent by preventing the parent from seeing their child for a long time.

But what about the effect on the children if one parent acts badly or irrationally?  In an SBS television article, “6 Famous Cases of Parental Abduction in Australia”, young 15 year old Hannah shares her experience of an ordeal in which she at age 5 and her sister aged 3, were taken from Sydney to Lebanon by their father without their mother’s permission.  Hannah said, “you’re hurting your child, it’s not healthy to take them away from their other parent, they need both their parents in their life. Most kids are told that their other parent didn’t want them and that’s extremely damaging to a child at a young age or at any age knowing that your parent didn’t want you.”

If your ex threatens to take your children out of the country, speak with us urgently about putting them on the national airports and port authorities watchlist.

Once agreement is reached regarding the children, both parents should establish a good pattern of behaviour and routine:

  • During hand over of the children, both parents should remain calm and avoid any conflict, particularly physical contact. (Be aware that if domestic violence is alleged, the victimised parent can seek an ouster order against the alleged offender, requiring them to leave the matrimonial property until matters are resolved by the court. This could render the alleged offender homeless. It’s therefore best to remain calm and respectful at all times, and avoid any physical or verbal abuse).
  • Keep involved with the children and spend as much time as you can with them.  Pick them up from school.  Be active with their sporting and extra-curricular activities.
  • Stay interested and be on top of the children’s welfare. Always consider their best interests first.

It’s best to put the agreement in place by filing Consent Orders with the court:

  • Having consent orders in place makes it clear and precise as to the obligations and rights of both parents.
  • By filing orders with the court, there is a stronger onus on each parent not to breach the agreements reached
  • Should one party breach the orders the other can go back to court to have the matter rectified. The remedies available range from the enforcement of the orders, to the punishment of a person for failure to obey the orders. 

When children are involved in a relationship breakdown, most parents recognise that their welfare and safety are indeed paramount. Don’t cut corners. Talk with us about how we can assist in reaching a fair and workable agreement between you and your ex-partner.

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