Many different factors have to be considered when two parents separate. It is often said in these situations that the interests of the child must be paramount, but there can often be a certain amount of confusion involved here, especially due to the way that the laws are written. What do you need to bear in mind if you are in this situation and worried about your children's future?
What the Law Says
Family law in Australia typically determines that parenting orders (if necessary in this situation) take note of various circumstances, including the views of the child and any risks from family violence or similar. Should the court rule within the scope of the Family Law Act, then it will aim to ensure that the child has a meaningful relationship with both parents, while they are at the same time protected from abuse, neglect or family violence.
Where Things Go Wrong
Typically, the goal is to shape parental responsibility equally, as this is often deemed to be in the best interest of the child. However, the responsibility needs to be shared equally, and this does not necessarily mean that the children have to spend 50% of their time with each parent.
In fact, many parents will get bogged down in the minutiae, or enter into a protracted war of words, as they are effectively looking at their situation first and foremost, rather than the needs of the child. In other words, they are trying to balance out their rights or requirements as father or mother and the child is effectively the object of the final decision.
The Risk of Going It Alone
Many situations are resolved by both parties without the interaction of the court. However, where the individuals concerned are trying to work through this themselves, they may often be too caught up in the details to see the much more important, bigger picture. The final agreement may be perfectly acceptable to both parents, but it is still based on their own interests and needs first and foremost, and not necessarily that of the children.
Rather than looking for convenience and a totally equitable split of duties, it is often better to approach the problem from the perspective of the child and their corresponding interest first.
What to Do Next
If you're getting bogged down over this subject, or are not sure whether you are really taking the needs of your children into consideration, then have a word with a family lawyer, to put you on the right track.