In Australian family law, the term “unacceptable risk” designates a circumstance in which a judge finds that permitting a child to interact or spend time with a certain parent presents an unreasonable risk to the child’s welfare. This concept is commonly associated with parenting orders in cases of separation, where the court must decide on the child’s living arrangements and contact with each parent. 

This concept is particularly relevant in parenting disputes, as the court’s consideration is always in the best interests of the child. The term “unacceptable risk” in family law encompasses a range of factors that may jeopardise the safety, welfare, or best interests of the child. These risks can include, but are not limited to, issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, or any behavior that could potentially harm the child physically or emotionally.

In the realm of family law in Australia, the determination of a child’s best interests is enshrined in Section 60CC(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). This section outlines a set of factors that the court must consider in order to make decisions that protect the well-being of the child, with a particular focus on any potential risk of harm.

Section 60CC(3) of the Act provides that the court must also consider the factors set out in section 60CC(4) when determining whether there is an unacceptable risk of harm. These include an analysis of the risk of harm including:

  • The nature of the risk of harm

  • The degree of the risk of harm

  • The extent to which the child would be exposed to the risk of harm.

  • The capacity of the parent or other person to protect the child from harm.


If it is determined that spending time with one parent poses an unacceptable risk to the child, the court may modify the parenting orders accordingly. This could involve supervised visitation, limitations on communication, or, in some cases, restrictions on contact altogether.

It is important to note that considerations of unacceptable risk in family law are complex and depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Legal advice from a qualified family lawyer is recommended for anyone navigating family law issues in Australia.

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