There is a common misconception surrounding parental rights in family disputes that many people who are unfamiliar with the family law system often fall prey to. Parents often assume they have rights when it comes to regulating how much time they spend with their child, as well as decisions involving their child’s health, education and religion. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), parents don’t possess any dominant rights when it comes to family law disputes, whereas the rights of the child are the key factor that are taken into consideration in any proceeding. The parents also bear responsibility over the wellbeing of the child and must conform to obligations such as:

  • Keeping up with child support payments;
  • Conducting themselves in a respectable manner;
  • Following court rules and directions; and
  • Ensuring their children can enjoy the best relationship possible with both their parents.

Children on the other hand are granted numerous rights that are aimed at protecting their psychological and emotional wellbeing during what is often a very troubling ordeal. They have the right to feel loved and cared for, to feel a sense of security and comfort with their parents and in their home. Ensuring these rights for a child in the midst of a messy separation can be quite challenging for both the Court and the parents’ solicitors. While all good family law practitioners will advise parents to focus on the children, a parents’ sense of good judgement can be clouded by fear and resentment, which can result in an uncomfortable situation for their child.

This is why taking a step back, examining the situation, and attempting to empathise with the children is an important process to go through. Parents must consider the psychological and emotional impact that their behaviour towards one another can have on their children. At almost any age children can comprehend that their parents are supposed to love each other, and watching them in hostile situations can be both confusing and distressing. The behavior parent’s display in front of their children strongly contributes to a child’s development of their emotional and mental capacity. This is why family law places such responsibilities on the way parents can conduct themselves, and why adhering to their legislative burden is so crucial.

Family and parental disputes can be confronting. Although the idea of seeking help may be difficult, taking action early on and getting help from a family law specialist and/or mental health professional (such as a psychologist or councilor) can have a profound positive effect on how a dispute is carried out and the results it may have.