How is Child Custody Determined in Australia?

Child custody

While the word ‘custody’ is not a legal term in Australia, it is a widely understood term that helps us to explore the subject without using too much legal jargon. For the purposes of this article, we use the word ‘custody’ to mean parental responsibility following separation.

A separation or divorce custody agreement for children can be informally agreed upon by parents, outlined in a signed parenting plan or formally made into court orders. If parents cannot come to an agreement, an application to the court can be made to determine appropriate parenting orders. Below, the family lawyers at Melbourne Law Studio look at how the court determines a custody agreement in Victoria.

How Custody Works

The court is required under family law to ensure a child has every opportunity to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents. This is one of the primary considerations when deciding on a custody agreement for the child. Of course, this will be influenced by the current and previous relationship between each parent and the child, the role of each parent in the child’s life and any unique circumstances that are relevant. 

Courts Must Protect Against Harm

For any post-divorce custody agreement, protecting the child’s safety is given greater weight if it conflicts with allowing meaningful parental relationships. Understandably, preventing physical or psychological harm, neglect, abuse or family violence is the top priority.

The Child’s Preferences

If a child specifically expresses their wishes about custody arrangements, that will also be taken into consideration. It will depend on the age and maturity of the child, however. Their ability to understand the situation will influence how much weight is given to their preferences.

Impact on the Child 

The court will also consider how any new custody arrangements may impact the child. For example, separating them from a parent they have been living with for a while, or how new custody arrangements might remove them from any important existing social, financial, educational and/or cultural environments. 

Speak to a Family Lawyer in Melbourne

Every post-divorce custody agreement is approached differently depending on the unique family circumstances. If you are preparing for a divorce or separation and have more questions about how custody works, book a free 15-minute consultation today with the family lawyers at Melbourne Law Studio. Call us on 03 9021 1421 or contact us online.

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