During a separation, it can be very easy to get wrapped up in negativity where the care of your child is concerned. These feelings during a child custody dispute are only natural. We can often become overly-emotional and forget how much the separation affects our child. It’s therefore imperative to provide children with the opportunity to have a voice during this difficult time.
How does a child custody dispute work?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand the potentially traumatic effect that separation and custody disputes can have on your child. There is no definitive section in the Family Law Act that decides what age a child should be in order to choose which parent they want to stay with. However, during the court process, the child’s age, maturity, wishes and ability to communicate their true feelings are usually taken into account by the Family Court.
The Family Court often does not consider it appropriate for parents to question their children about where they want to live. For some children who feel "caught in the middle" they may feel too much pressure to please both parents. Often there are orders made by the Court to prevent you from discussing the proceedings and the arrangements with the children.
Before you speak to your child about parenting arrangements it is essential that you talk to one of our experienced Family Lawyers to ensure you do not breach a court order or cause problems in the future.
How are children’s voices heard in custody disputes?
In custody disputes, the child’s views and opinions are canvassed by a Family Report prepared by a court appointed Family Consultant or more commonly by a Single Expert Witness in a Report. Sometimes a report from the child's counsellor or psychologist can be obtained if this is by agreement or Court order.
A Family Report is a document that is usually written by a Family Consultant who works in the Family Court. The Family Consultant will meet with the child and prepare a report.
The Family Consultant ensures that the child’s voice is heard and the situation is fully understood by the Family Court.
If the circumstances are complex the Court may appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL), who may meet with the child and then prepare a report for the Court. More commonly the ICL will propose a Single Expert Witness to interview the children and the parents and prepare a report for the Court. The SEW is agreed by all parties and the parents usually share the costs of the report.
There are a variety of different factors that the Court considers to decide with whom a child lives with. The Family Court is there to ensure the child’s best interests are met and the child's wishes are only one of the factors that they take into account.
If you are currently in the process of a parenting dispute with a former partner, it is crucial you speak to a Family Lawyer.
Family Law firm Leach Legal has been assisting Perth families during this difficult time for more than a decade, so why not give them a call today on (08) 9486 9733.