Child Custody and Sick Parent: What You Need to Know

child custody sick parent

Child custody is a sensitive issue, especially when a parent gets sick. It’s essential to understand the laws and rights surrounding child custody to ensure that the best interests of the child are met.

In this article, we’ll discuss child custody laws in Australia, particularly when a parent is unwell.

Legal Considerations in Cases Involving Ill Parents and Child Custody

When determining child custody, the court’s primary concern is the child’s best interests. In cases where a parent is ill, the court will consider the following factors:

The nature and severity of the illness: The court will consider the nature and severity of the illness, whether it is a physical or mental health condition.

The impact of the illness on the parent’s ability to care for the child: The court will also evaluate how the parent’s illness affects his or her ability to meet the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and medical care.

The assistance and support available to the parent: The court will consider the assistance and support available to the parent, such as from family, friends, and professionals.

The child’s relationship with each parent: The court will also consider the nature and quality of the child’s relationship with each parent, as well as the impact of the illness on that relationship.

Sick Parents and Child Custody Considerations

In situations where one parent is ill, the court may issue orders like the following:

Shared custody: When the child spends equal time with each parent, the court may award shared custody to both parents. If the ill parent is still able to care for the child, this type of custody arrangement may be appropriate.

Primary custody to the healthy parent: If the sick parent cannot provide adequate care for the child due to their illness, the court may award primary custody to the healthy parent.

Supervised visits: In cases where the ill parent’s ability to care for the child is in question, the court may order supervised visits. To ensure the child’s safety and well-being, a third party, such as a relative or a social worker, may accompany the child during visits.

No contact: In rare cases, if there are concerns about the parent’s mental health or substance abuse, the court may order no contact between the ill parent and the child.

Notably, these are not exhaustive lists, and the court will issue orders based on the specifics of each case.

What happens in cases where sick parents can’t look after a child in a one off situation?

If the sick parent can’t look after the child in a one off situation, they may organise another person to look after the children during their designated time.

This should be someone the child is familiar and comfortable with.

In some cases, you may want to ask the other parent to look after the child during the time when you are sick to ensure the child’s needs are met.

Can a Parenting Order Be Altered if a Parent Becomes Ill?

Yes, a parenting order can be altered if a parent becomes ill. A parenting order is a legal document that outlines child custody arrangements. The Family Law Act of 1975 provides that parenting orders may be modified or revoked by the court if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the order was issued and it is in the child’s best interests to do so.

If a parent becomes ill and is unable to comply with the current parenting order, it may be necessary to seek a modification. The procedure for modifying a parenting order consists of petitioning the court to modify the existing order to reflect the new circumstances.

If the court determines that there has been a substantial change in circumstances due to the parent’s illness and that it is in the child’s best interests for the parenting order to be modified, the court may issue a new order reflecting the new arrangements.


In child custody disputes involving ill parents, it is essential to understand the applicable laws and legal considerations. The court’s primary concern is always the child’s best interests, and it will issue orders accordingly. If you are a parent with a serious illness or a concerned family member, you must seek legal advice and consult with a child custody lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected and the child’s best interests are met.

Director of Melbourne Family Lawyers, Hayder manages the practice and oversees the running of all of the files in the practice. Hayder has an astute eye for case strategy and running particularly complex matters in the family law system.

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