Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975 outlines the considerations in which the Court will take into account when determining what is in a child’s best interests.
When making Orders, the Court first applies the presumption that it is in the best interests of a child for each of their parents to have equal shared responsibility. This presumption is rebuttable and will not apply for instance if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent is engaged in child abuse or family violence. “Equal shared responsibility” refers to decisions of a long term nature effecting a child, including decisions about health, education and religion.
Assuming the presumption applies, the Court must firstly consider whether it is reasonably practical and in the best interests of the child for them to spend equal time with each parent. If equal time is not practical or in the child’s best interest, the Court must then consider whether it is practical and in the best interests of the child to spend substantial and significant periods of time with each parent. This time is defined as that which falls both on weekends, holidays and also during school weeks, allowing both parents to be involved in the routine and events that are of particular significance to the child. If such parenting arrangement is not in a child's best interest, consideration of what parenting arrangement is, that will promote a meaningful relationship with both parents to the best extent possible will then usually be ordered.
When formulating Orders, the Court will also consider the developmental age of the child. The orders may be able to be varied as a child grows and develops, to continue to reflect arrangements in the best interests of the child.
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