Child Custody

Child custody is often one of the most difficult issues a person may face in their lives.  Because at Neat Law your appointed solicitor will be working closely with you on your case, you’ll be able to get the best child custody agreement for you and your children.


Research has shown that children in separated families are able to have full loving relationships with both parents and if both parents have a positive outlook and do not involve the children in the dispute.

How does the court decide where children will live?

If parents can’t agree on where the children should be living, the court will make a decision about where the children should live. For the court to make this decision, they’ll look at the relevant factors in the Family Law Act to make this decision which may include:


a)  the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents; and

b)  the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.


There are other things that the court looks at when making a decision about child custody. They may ask the child themselves about their views and where they would like to live. The court may also look at the relationship that the child has with each of the child’s parents and extended family members and as a result put the child in the care of people that they are comfortable with.


The court may also look at the history of the parents and make a decision based on whether or not they have taken opportunities to spend time and communicate with their child. This is why we advise our client’s to consistently take notes of what they and their ex-partners have been doing before a child custody case is to go before the court.


The past will be taken into consideration, however, the future of the child is also largely important. An assessment will be made about the ability of the parents to provide for the upcoming needs of the child, including the ability to be available financially, emotionally and intellectually for the child.


A strong preference for the Primary Caretaker of the child

In child custody cases, the courts prefer appointing the primary caretaker during the course of the relationship as the primary custodian of the child.  Psychologists state that the bond between a child and their primary caretaker should be maintained if they are to develop properly through life. Therefore, this emotional bond shouldn’t be breached. The primary caretaker is the parent who was responsible for.:

  • Bathing, grooming, and dressing the child;
  • Preparing the meals for the child;
  • Buying clothes and toys for the child;
  • Helping with education homework;
  • Conferencing with teachers; and
  • Spending meaningful time in a fun environment with the child.

What does a court look at when it determines the best interests of the Child?

All child custody decisions are focused on ensuring the best interests of the child are made. Generally speaking, it’s often in the child’s best interests to have a  loving relationship with both parents, but arranging such relationships can be the main challenge in resolving a child custody dispute.


There are circumstances when a court will take the view that it is in the child’s best interests to no longer see one, or both, of their parents.  However, this is in a minority of cases and will usually only where there is a history of physical, sexual or psychological abuse.


The decisions you make now in relation to your child custody arrangement will affect your child’s development and potentially your future relationship with them. Each decision should be made carefully with the help of professionals who know and understand the consequences of every action.

I’m not happy with my child custody agreement. What can I do?

Where one parent is unhappy with a particular aspect of their child custody arrangement they should firstly seeking legal advice.


You need to be careful that your claim isn’t dismissed immediately because the general rule is, once a decision has been made in the courts, it will not be changed. The Court will need to be satisfied that there has been a material or significant change of circumstances for it to be re-heard in court. This is quite commonly referred to as the rule in Rice & Asplund.


The court doesn’t want to continue listening to the same issues about the same children time and time again. However, the Court understands that circumstances in children’s lives will change over time.



We always recommend our clients to attend mediation when trying to resolve a dispute. This can be difficult if there is resentment or if one party is not cooperating, which may leave you with no option but to make an application to change an existing parenting order.