“He/She left me for another woman/man”
He/she needs to be punished so I will not allow him/her to spend as much time with our children. The new partner is not the type of person that I want my children to be around because he/she is a ‘home wrecker’.
As a family lawyer, we hear statements like this regularly. The Court does not have quite the same view. In fact, the court’s paramount consideration is the child’s best interests. Among the 16 things that a court considers, the most relevant are:
- The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s 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.
The court is not interested in the reason for the breakdown of the relationship and, in fact, makes it very clear that parents have an obligation to shield their child from ‘adult issues’. The court considers that it is unnecessary for the children to know the reason for the breakdown of the relationship or even about the existence of legal proceedings between the parents.
Parents often want to blame each other for the breakdown in the relationship and feel the need to enlist the support of their children by discussing their conduct and/or denigrating the other parent to the children. In doing so, parents are more likely to face criticism by the court.
The court will rarely consider that infidelity is a factor that is relevant to the child’s ability to have meaningful relationship with both parents. It would have to be coupled with other factors like the spending time with that parent and the need to protect the child as outlined above.
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