What does the Court consider in parenting matters involving risk to a child?

There are many parents who have had a significant drug history but that has not precluded them from eventually being primary carer of their child/children.

Sometimes, those parents have been able to prove to the Court that they have made changes to their lifestyle and that the child is safe with them, and that the child’s best interests are served being with that parent.

The Court conducts a thorough examination before making final parenting orders.

In proceedings involving children, the legislation in this country to be applied has been enacted purely to meet the public’s expectation that “the most important thing in this country is to protect the wellbeing of the children”.

When dealing with children’s matters, the Court’s primary considerations must be:

(a)  the benefit of the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents (or other significant person in their lives); and

(b)  the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm, from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.

When applying these considerations, the Court must give greater weight to the latter.

The Court also looks at several additional considerations including any views expressed by the child, the nature of the child’s relationship with each of their parents and any other person including a grandparent of a child, as well as the extent to which each parent has fulfilled, or failed to fulfil, the parents’ obligations to support and maintain the child.There are several other considerations which I will not mention here but the ambit of considerations for the Court to consider is very wide.

In some cases, the Court will make an order for the appointment of an Independent Children’s Lawyer, whose role it is to separately represent the child’s best interest.

If there are allegations of previous abuse or if there is a risk of future abuse, the Court can be well informed by evidence from independent sources such as Family Report writers, and subpoenaed material from government departments such as the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Child Safety.

To help allay some of the concerns or fears of residential parents or other significant people in the child’s life in relation to risk or harm or abuse, the Court may order supervised contact at a contact centre, such as the Mackay Children’s Contact Service, whose role it is to provide a safe, neutral and child friendly environment for supervised time with non-residential parents and their children.