Meredith Lawyers

How is child custody determined in family law cases in Australia?

Even though you are separating, both parents are the most important people in your child’s (or children’s) life. When there are no safety or risk issues, the best arrangements for the future are those where:

  • your child continues to have a loving and meaningful relationship with both parents and other family members;
  • both parents continue to share responsibility for the child; and
  • your child lives in a safe environment, with no violence or abuse.

The law relating to children and their best interests.

There are provisions of the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”) which give the Court power to make orders for the care and welfare about children in Australia (except Western Australia).

Orders about children are commonly referred to parenting orders, even though they can apply to a person who is not a parent of the child the proceedings relate to.

When determining any dispute about children (including about with whom a child should live and/or spend time, who should make decisions about a child, and matters like where child should go to school or whether a child should have a medical procedure), the Court must regard the best interests of the child as its paramount consideration. The Act provides guidance as to how the Court determines a child’s best interests, but the Court has discretion to consider anything it thinks relevant in determining those best interests.

The ‘primary considerations’ for determining a child’s best interests, to which the Court is required to give the greatest weight, are the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, and the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect, or family violence. In balancing those primary considerations, the Court must give greater consideration to protecting the child from harm (see section 60CC (2) and 60CC(2A) of the Family Law Act 1975).

For more information on the legal processes involved in Child custody in Australia and how to protect your rights, please contact our experienced team of Family lawyers in Sydney today on 1300 537 306  or send us an email at

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