The Family Court of Australia determines what is in the best interests of the child by considering a range of factors set out in the Family Law Act 1975. The Act prioritizes the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm, as well as the right of the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, and to be protected from being subjected or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
Some of the factors that the court takes into account when determining what is in the best interests of the child include:
- The child’s views and wishes (depending on their age and level of maturity)
- The child’s relationship with each parent and other significant people in their life
- Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs.
- The level of involvement each parent has had in the child’s life.
- The impact of any changes to the child’s living arrangements, including their schooling and social network
- Any family violence, abuse, or neglect
- The capacity of each parent to promote the child’s best interests, and to maintain a positive relationship with the other parent (unless it is not safe or practical to do so).
The court may also order a Family Report, which is a document prepared by a family consultant that includes information about the child’s circumstances and the views and wishes of each parent. Additionally, the court may appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) to represent the child’s best interests during the legal proceedings.
Ultimately, the court’s decision about what is in the best interests of the child will be based on all of the available evidence and will depend on the unique circumstances of each case.
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