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Speak Up - do children have a say when it comes to parenting arrangements?

Speak Up

Friday 9th of August 2019
By: Emily O'Brien, Solicitor, Coote Family Lawyers

Do children have a say when it comes to parenting arrangements?

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) provides that the paramount consideration when determining parenting arrangements is the best interests of the child.  There is no clear definition as to what ‘best interests’ means and this commonly used phrase is open to interpretation, by Judges, legal practitioners and parents. When answering this question, the Court is guided by both primary and additional considerations as set out in section 60CC of the Act and included as an additional consideration are the wishes of a child.  When determining how much weight, if any, to assign to views expressed by a child, the Judge is to consider the age and maturity level of that child.  For example, the opinions of a child who can demonstrate a level of maturity and a degree of insight into their decisions, particularly in the context of how their decisions impact the time spent and relationship with each parent, is likely to be afforded more weight.

It is also important to understand that whilst a Judge is guided to consider a child’s wishes, in the case of Bondelmonte & Bondelmonte [2017] HCA 8 the High Court made it clear that the views expressed by a child are merely one consideration of a number to be taken into account in the overall assessment of their best interests.  Accordingly, Judges are not bound by a child’s view, regardless of how strong that view may be. 

We understand that as a parent or someone who is concerned with the care, development or welfare of a child, it can be difficult to decipher between arrangements that you feel are best and those expressed by a child.  At Coote Family Lawyers we are well practised in exploring these questions and negotiating appropriate arrangements that are best for your child/ren and family.  If you have any questions or concerns call us on 9804 0035 to speak with one of Melbourne's best family law solicitors.

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