What If My Child Refuses To Go To Their Other Parent?
After the breakdown of their parent’s relationship, a child may refuse to see one of their parents. If this is your experience, you may be torn between wanting to respect your child’s wishes and wondering if it is legal to deny the other parent from seeing their child.
Issues of this nature are covered by the Family Law Act 1975 and although a child’s wishes may be taken into consideration when matters relating to parenting are being resolved, it is not always possible – or legal – to allow a child to have the final say in these matters.
Here’s what you should know if your child refuses to go to their other parent.
What considerations will a court make when assessing parenting arrangements?
Under the Family Law Act a court will always consider first and foremost the best interests of the child. The child having a relationship with both of their parents is an immediate consideration. The safety of the child is also paramount, the court will consider scenarios where the relationship may have been fractured due to family violence and where the child has been separated from the parent(s) to protect them against physical and/or psychological harm.
In addition, a court will consider the proposed parenting arrangements, including the child’s thoughts on the proposed arrangements and their level of maturity. Ultimately, a court will decide what outcome is best for the child, factoring in:
- the type of relationship the child and their parents have currently;
- how a new parenting arrangement could disrupt the existing relationship and how it could affect the child’s emotional development;
- the practicality of a new parenting arrangement and whether any proposed amendments are viable;
- each parent’s capacity to provide for the child;
- whether a history of family violence exists and how new parenting arrangements could put the child in harm’s way; and
- any existing conditions which preclude a parent from seeing the child.
How will a court determine a child’s maturity?
A child’s actual age is not necessarily relied upon, but what a court will consider is the child’s level of maturity, their capacity and comprehension of the proposed parenting arrangements and the implications of their refusal to see their other parent.
Typically, third parties will need to assist in assessing the child’s maturity. As such, a court will often consider:
- an interview with the Independent Children’s Lawyer;
- an official Family Report; and/or
- an expert witness report (if necessary).
A Family Report is prepared by a trained child psychologist (or person with similar qualifications/experience) who, after facilitating and considering interviews with a range of family members, can provide a professional opinion on the most suitable living arrangements for the child.
A court will often also consider whether a child has been inappropriate questions by a parent or involved in the parenting dispute. It is recommended that you seek legal advice before having any conversations with your child about their custody arrangements.
At what age is a child legally allowed to refuse to see their parent?
A child is legally able to refuse to see their parent once they reach the age of 18. Prior to this, where divorce and separation are concerned, a court can make orders in relation to the care and custody arrangements for a child, including an order precluding a parent from seeing their child.
If your child is unhappy with the parenting arrangements you and their other parent have in place for them and you need assistance with navigating the family law system, our experienced family lawyers can help.