Child Abuse and/or Family Violence
In deciding the outcome of a parenting matter, the court’s paramount consideration will always be what is in the best interests of the child or children. In doing so, the court will always consider the child’s future welfare in each parent’s households, particularly with respect to exposure to harm as a result of child abuse and/or family violence.
This is where the parent’s conduct becomes extremely relevant to the family law proceedings. Each trait a parent possesses can directly impact on the way the child or children will be treated and the experiences a child will be exposed to while in that parent’s care.
If a parent commits crimes, drinks excessively, uses illicit substances, engages in inappropriate sexual behaviour and/or experiences mental instability (for example, issues with anger management or suicidal tendencies), they will come under scrutiny throughout proceedings. Where such traits are possessed by a parent, the risk that a child or children will be exposed to harm while in the parent’s care dramatically increases.
The court deems it to be in the best interest of each child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Protecting a child from the risk of harm can, in particular cases, outweigh the benefit to the child of having a relationship with that parent.
Discretion of the court
If one or both parents expose their child to child abuse and/or family violence, the court is under an obligation to take prompt action. The court has the discretion to order one or a combination of the following:
- The child spends no time with the parent exposing the child to harm;
- The child spends limited supervised time with the parent exposing the child to harm;
- One parent have sole parental responsibility, and have the capacity to make all long-term decisions for the child (such as the child’s location of residence, school, religion, last name, elective surgeries, immunisation, etc.)
Family dispute resolution
For parenting orders to be made, it is a requirement that both parties attempt to resolve the matter at family dispute resolution (FDR). In circumstances where there is family violence or child abuse, an exemption will be provided. You can get more information by calling the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or by talking to a family counsellor or FDR practitioner.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger or the situation is life-threatening, contact the Queensland Police Service immediately by dialling 000.
If you are aware or suspect that a child is being exposed to harm, you should consider contacting Queensland police child protection and investigation unit or the Child Safety Services through one of the following means:
Via telephone during normal business hours – contact the relevant Regional Intake Service;
Via telephone after hours and on weekends (24/7) – contact the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre on 1800 177 135 or (07) 3235 9999;
Online – by completing an online report form.
If you have any queries in respect to the above, please contact our office for a free initial consultation.