What does “best interests of a child” mean and why does it matter?
If you are considering, or involved in, a parenting matter you will no doubt hear the phrase “the best interests of a child” more than any other.
For some it sounds like a hollow, aspirational statement. For others it reflects back the reality that every case is different and needs to be treated that way. It is arguably the most fundamental concept in family law, but it is also the hardest to define. Indeed, these clauses in the Family Law Act come from language of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Considerations for what’s in “the best interests of the child”
In the most basic terms, “the best interests of the child” can be thought of as a balancing act between two sets of rights a child: the rights for a child to have meaningful relationships within their family structure and the rights for a child to be kept safe from harm. The Family Court will start from the position of try to ensure that both parents share these responsibilities. Every case is different, and the Court’s can look at other factors to make the determination, such as:
- your child’s wishes, depending on their age and maturity;
- your demonstrated attitudes (not just actions) towards parental responsibilities;
- a child’s extended social, cultural and identity needs;
- any circumstances involving family violence; and
- you and your ex-partner’s attempts to solve the issue to date.
Understandably, it is difficult to figure out what is in your child’s best interests as well as your own. These questions can be hard to answer by yourself. If you are currently in the process of separating and working out parenting arrangements, we can help you understand what will lead you and your children to the best possible arrangement.