“Best Interests” of children during COVID-19

Malcolm Gittoes-Caesar ||

In general terms, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, work on one principle in parenting matters – that is, putting arrangements in place that are in the best interests of children.

However, the questions is – what does “best interests” look like at the moment?

Clearly, the world is going through enormous upheaval, that affects every facet of our lives. Complexity is everywhere you turn, and family law is no different. For those people that have Orders in place that set out the arrangements between separated parents with respect to children, or a Parenting Plan that does the same, or are in the process of undertaking Family Court or Federal Circuit Court proceedings, what does best interests look like.

Best interests are defined in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) Section 60CC(2) of the Act states that the primary consideration of the Court is the benefit of a child in having a meaningful relationship with each parent and the need to protect a child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.

But what does a meaningful relationship look like when people are isolated? There is a need to protect a child from psychical or psychological harm – presumably, that may extend to a parent being lax when it comes to ensuring that children are not exposed to harm by way of exposure to an illness. Parents are going to want to desire to keep their children close – which is perfectly understandable – but how does that fit under the meaningful relationship consideration?

There are additional considerations that the Court needs to look at, such as the likely effect of a change in circumstances, a child’s views, any practical difficulty and expense of a child spending time or communicating with the other parent and the capacity of a parent to provide for the needs of a child.

All of those considerations are turned on their head in the world in which we now live.

Determining what is best for a child is really difficult under normal circumstances, but it is now fraught with confusion. This is an area of law that will evolve over the next six to twelve months, but the Accredited Specialists at Coleman Greig remain available to provide guidance and advice in these difficult times, so please do not hesitate to contact a member of Coleman Greig’s Family Law team today, who would be more than happy to assist you.

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