When a relationship breaks down and there are children involved, it can be challenging to determine what is in the best interests of the child or children. In these situations, custody disputes usually follow, and they can be emotionally and legally complex. Let’s examine some measures parents can take to prevent disputes from arising in the first place.
What Are Custody Disputes?
Custody disputes are legal conflicts that arise between parents, or other parties, over the custody and care of a child. These disputes can occur during divorce or separation proceedings or arise independently when two or more parties hold opposing views regarding child custody.
Disputes may involve where the child will reside, who will make decisions regarding their education and medical care, how often they will see each parent and other matters about the child’s welfare. These disputes can have a significant impact on the child’s life and future relationships with their parents.
These disputes are typically resolved through the legal system, either through negotiation or court proceedings.
How Can Child Custody Disputes Be Minimised?
One of the biggest mistakes we see are parents weaponising children as a way of punishing one another for things that happened during the relationship. Our advice to individuals in these situations is to remain child focused and to think about the “bigger picture”, because although custody disputes cannot always be avoided there are measures that can be taken to minimise the likelihood that they arise. Here are some tips:
- Communicate openly: One of the biggest causes of custody disputes is poor communication between parents. By keeping the lines of communication open and respectful, parents can avoid misunderstandings and disagreements that can escalate into disputes.
- Be flexible: Life can be unpredictable, and circumstances can change quickly. By being flexible and willing to accommodate changes in schedules and arrangements, parents can avoid unnecessary conflicts.
- Put the child’s needs first: When making decisions about custody and visitation, it’s important to prioritise the child’s needs above all else. This means setting aside personal differences and working collaboratively to create a plan that works for everyone.
- Keep emotions in check: Custody disputes can be emotionally stressful, but it’s crucial to keep emotions in check and avoid saying or doing things that could inflame the situation. Staying calm and level-headed can help keep the focus on finding a solution that works for everyone.
- Get professional help: If parents cannot resolve their differences on their own, seeking the help of a mediator or counsellor can be an effective way to avoid custody disputes. These professionals can provide objective guidance and help parents find common ground.
While it may not be possible to completely avoid custody disputes, adopting these steps can reduce their likelihood and lead to more favourable outcomes for everyone involved.
If alternative dispute resolution methods are not successful, parents may need to go to court. In Australia, the Federal Circuit and Family Court deals with custody disputes.
What Happens Following Child Custody Disputes?
If custody disputes cannot be settled through negotiation or mediation, the court may be requested to intervene and implement a parenting order. The court will consider a variety of factors, including the child’s best interests, when determining custody. A parenting order becomes legally binding and enforceable once it has been issued. Having a child custody lawyer by your side can greatly assist with the case.
If one parent fails to comply with the order, the other parent may petition the court for enforcement. This can include a variety of punishments, such as fines, community service mandates, and in extreme cases, imprisonment.
Custody disputes can be a challenging and emotional process for all involved. However, by working towards a resolution that is in the best interests of the child, parents can ensure that their child’s needs are being met.
The Federal Circuit and Family Law Court of Australia is available to assist parents in making decisions that are in the best interests of their children if court intervention is required.
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.