Conflict between Parents | Parenting Orders

Is your child being exposed to conflict between parents arising from your separation?

During relationships and particularly in regard to parenting of children, people can have different views of what is best for their child. Whilst parents are in the relationship, they will often work together to come up with a suitable solution. However, after parents separate, the willingness of one or both parents to do that can sometimes be negatively impacted by the breakdown of the relationship. Within high conflict and emotionally charged family law parenting disputes, children can be exposed to the conflict between parents. This can have a significant and detrimental effect on the children and is taken very seriously by the family courts when considering parenting orders to be made. The Court will make parenting orders appropriate to prevent the risk of harm to children through being exposed to conflict between parents.

Contact our child custody lawyers Brisbane or North Brisbane child custody lawyers for complimentary initial advice regards child custody issues that concern you. We can assist you towards reaching agreement with your  your former partner (and where necessary obtain parenting orders) for living arrangements for your children that will reduce the risk of their being exposed to conflict between parents. Whatever your child custody issue, our team at LGM Family Law have the experience to assist you.

If you’d like to know more about how the family courts deal with conflict between parents and reducing the risk of children being exposed to that conflict, please read on!

A recent case which was heard before His Honour Judge O’Sullivan of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia titled Mercer & Mercer [2018] FCCA 2575, considered  significant ongoing conflict between parents following separation and parenting orders to be made. The conflict was affecting the children to the extent that the children of the relationship were living separately – one with each parent.

At separation the mother had relocated with her child from a previous relationship and the younger of two children of the relationship. She had enrolled the younger child at a new school. The older child of the relationship remained with the Father. The Father brought the matter to Court seeking that the mother be restrained from relocating with the younger child and that the child return to the school that she was previously attending. At the first appearance before the Court, interim parenting orders were made for a child inclusive conference and after which the Court Ordered that on an interim basis that the children reside with the Mother in the new location and attend at the new school. After living with the Mother, attending the new school and spending regular time with the Father, the conflict between the older child of the relationship and the mother’s child from a previous relationship was such that the older child went to live with the paternal grandmother.

An Independent Children’s Lawyer was appointed as part of interim parenting orders to represent the children separately. (You can learn more about the role of the Independent children’s lawyers here: Has an Independent Children’s Lawyer been appointed for your children?). An independent expert was appointed to prepare a report for the Court detailing the relevant issues which needed to be addressed and to make recommendations for parenting arrangements for the Court’s consideration. (This type of report is referred to as a “Family Report” you can learn more about this type of report here: Family Reports and your Children).

In this case, the family report writer observed that the father was still carrying hurt at the loss of his marriage with the mother and this was negatively affecting his behaviour. She also observed that the father had guided the views of the older child against his mother. The family report writer considered the mother’s evidence that the Father had not allowed the children to see her for Mother’s Day and had threatened that she would never see the younger child again. She considered that the mother’s new partner had acted aggressively towards the father at the school of the child resulting in a Protection Order being issued in the father’s favour. The report writer also pointed  to social media posts and messages of the mother which showed a disparaging and derogatory attitude towards the father. She highlighted difficulties that the parents had in reaching simple parenting agreements for the children. Events in the separation and attempts to communicate and make agreements after separation showed significant conflict between parents.

The family report included recommendations designed to reduce conflict between parents or at least to reduce the reduce of conflict between parents in the presence or within the hearing of, the children.  Those recommendations included that the older child return to live with the father and attend at his previous school, that the younger child continue to reside with the mother and attend the new school and that each child spend time with the other parent and sibling on weekends. The family report also included recommendations, on account of the conflict between parents and their inability to make joint decisions for the children, that each parent have sole parental responsibility for the child residing with  them. This allowed that parent to make most major long-term decisions for the child that was residing with them without agreement by the other parent.

After considering documents filed by the parties, the family report and hearing cross examination of the parents and appointed expert, His Honour made parenting orders in line with the family report recommendations and submission of the independent children’s lawyer that the children live separately between the parents and spend time together with the other parent and sibling each weekend alternating between the households. Parenting orders made also provided that each parent have sole parental responsibility for the child ordered to live with them.

This is an example of how conflict between parents can affect the arrangements for the children that the family courts are willing to order.  In Mercer & Mercer, both parents were attributed with blame for causing and contributing to the conflict. In other cases, it is only one parent who is responsible or mainly responsible for exposing children to conflict between parents or inappropriately guiding the children in their attitudes towards the other parent. In those situations where that conduct is established, the family court can be expected to make parenting orders aimed at eliminating or at least reducing the risk of children being exposed to, conduct of that kind on the part of the offending parent. It is often the case that the family court will reduce that parent’s time with the children or limit that parent’s ability to make decisions for the child or children to alleviate the conflict between parents.

Contact our child custody lawyers Brisbane or North Brisbane child custody lawyers for family law advice whether you have concerns about your children being exposed to conflict between parents or any other child custody issues. Our friendly and knowledgeable team at LGM Family Law are very experienced in dealing with high conflict parenting matters and all aspects of family law. We offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation and a fixed fee longer consultation.