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How parenting orders are determined prior to final orders being made

The leading authority on how a Court will determine what is in the best interests of the children at an interim hearing is Goode v Goode.[1]

Factual history

The parties had two children and had been married for 10 years before the father subsequently left the family home.

There was a dispute over the care arrangements of the children.  The mother claimed that the informal agreement had previously been reached that the father was to spend time with the children on alternate weekends, while the father claimed that the mother removed the children from him and made it difficult for him to maintain contact, other than on the mother’s terms.

At the interim hearing, the Judge applied the ‘status quo’ principle in deciding what would be in the best interests of the child, and ordered that children remain with the mother. The status quo principle was that as a child was in a well-settled environment the child’s arrangements should not be altered at an interim hearing.

The father appealed the decision concerning the interim order and the appeal was subsequently successful.

What was decided?

The Full Court of the Family Court held that the best interests of the child in interim hearings will be for both parents to have equal parental responsibility, even if neither party requests such an order. This equal shared parental responsibility presumption should only not apply if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent has engaged in abuse of the child or family violence, or if it would not be in the best interests of the child for the equal parental responsibility presumption to apply.

The Court provided that the following matters are to be taken into account when determining whether it is in the best interests of the child:

  1. Identify the issues that are in dispute including agreed or uncontented relevant facts
  2. Consider what are the relevant matters in the best interests of the child
  3. Determine whether the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility applies or if there are reasons for why the presumption is rebutted (e.g., abuse/family violence)
  4. Determine whether equal time is in the best interest of the child.

Key Message

Goode v Goode provides the authoritative principles that are continued to be applied by a Court in deciding parenting orders at an interim hearing.

This short article does not provide legal advice and should not be relied as such. If you need legal assistance, get in touch with us.

[1] Goode & Goode [2006] FamCA 1346.

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Familylaw,parenting

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