Best interests of the Child

The Court’s focus is on the best interests of the child or children. The legislation guides the Court on what it should consider when making a parenting order.

From 6 May 2024, if the child’s or children’s parents are, or were married to each other, the following information applies.

The objects of the legislation are:

  1. to ensure that the best interests of children are met, including by ensuring their safety; and
  2. to give effect to the Convention on the Rights of the Child done at New York on 20 November 1989.

The court must consider the following matters when determining what is in a child’s best interests:

In considering the above matters, the court must include consideration of:

If the child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, the court must also consider the following matters:

These considerations apply to all parenting orders, including but not limited to parental responsibility orders, orders about where and with whom a child will live, and orders concerning the time the child is to spend with the other parent or any other significant person in the child’s life.

If the child’s or children’s parents have not ever been married to each other the following information still applies.

The main considerations of the court are:

The need to protect the child is considered more important than benefit of a meaningful relationship with both parents.

There are also other things the Court will consider:

Children's views

Children do not share their views with the Court in person. The Court can appoint a Family Consultant or Independent Children's Lawyer to learn about the children's views.

A Family Consultant can interview children when preparing a family report. Family reports are given to Judicial Officers to help them make their decision.

An Independent Children’s Lawyer is a legal representative who represents the children's interests.

Equal shared parental responsibility

From 6 May 2024, this information no longer applies in cases where the parents of a child or children are, or were, married to each other.

The court has to presume that giving both parents equal shared parental responsibility is in the best interests of the child. Visit the parental responsibility page for information on this term - it does not refer to both parents spending an equal amount of time with the child. The Court considers the time spent with a child as a separate issue to parental responsibility.

The presumption applies unless it would not be appropriate, and the parents can provide evidence to the court that it is not in the best interests of the child that the parents have equal shared parental responsibility.

Parenting time

From 6 May 2024, this information no longer applies in cases where the parents of a child or children are, or were, married to each other.

If equal shared parental responsibility is presumed, the court must consider whether it is reasonably practical and in the best interests of the children for them to spend equal time or ‘substantial and significant time’ with each parent.

Substantial and significant time includes children spending weekdays, weekends and holidays with each parent and each parent having meaningful involvement with the children’s daily routine. It includes things such as a parent spending time with children on significant days such as birthdays or at school concerts.

Reasonably Practicable

What is “Reasonably Practicable” depends upon your particular circumstances. The court can take into account factors such as:

More information

You may find the following resources useful:

Last updated: 16-Apr-2024

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