Australian law news

How Courts Are Taking a Softer Approach to Custody

When two people who were previously in a settled relationship decide to go their separate ways, the repercussions can be widespread. In particular, the children can be badly affected and their welfare will be a focus of attention as formal proceedings begin. While such discussions used to be referred to as custody battles, these days courts have a much softer approach. What do you need to know?

The Softer Approach

The legal system is very aware how this type of event could affect impressionable children and is moving away from the old legal definitions as much as possible. Previously, one party would seek custody and the other would be granted access to the children thereafter, which is a very clinical way of addressing a very emotional subject.

Nowadays, the conversation will be steered toward the person who the child lives with and the person who they spend time with, instead. This type of approach also puts more of an emphasis on future relationships, as it encourages both parties to work as hard as possible and take some responsibility for the needs of the children. In an ideal world, the kids would spend the same amount of time with each parent and the courts will typically try and move towards this goal as much as possible.

Sole Responsibility

On one end of the spectrum, the parent who provides living arrangements and most support for the child or children would need to take on sole parental responsibility, in legal terms. This means that all crucial decisions affecting the young one will be made by this parent, without input from the other. Ordinarily, the court will want to see more of a shared responsibility and will only favour this type of approach if it is clearly seen to be in the child's best interest. For example, if there is any evidence of aggressive behaviour by the other parent or some other incapacity, this could put the child at risk.

Move to the Middle-Of-The-Road

It is far more common for one parent to host the child while some time is spent with the other. This works really well when both parents live in the same vicinity and there is no evidence of behavioural issues and the court will want the child to spend equal time with both adults if at all possible. If geographical distance is a concern, then a concerted effort will need to be made by both parties to overcome this, so that the child gets as much exposure to the distant adult as possible.

It is important for both adults to tread very carefully and to take each other's best interests into account, as well as those of the children. It's not permissible, for example, for one adult to move to a distant location to try and deprive the other parent of access to the children.

As this is a very complicated area, it's never advisable to go forward without the help of experienced legal counsel. Contact family lawyers for help understanding custody arrangements.