Parents are often faced with difficult decisions throughout the entirety of their children’s lives. When children become the subject of a parenting order, decisions about where and with whom the children should live and any issue such as medical treatment and schooling often become a battle of wills between the parents rather than constructive decisions about what is best for the children.
This is often the case when children become mature enough to form their own opinions. The need to alter or even forgo a parenting order becomes more apparent. Whilst the court does not have to make parenting orders based on a child’s views, the child’s emotional and intellectual maturity and reasons for such a change will be considered. The paramount consideration at all points is, however, what is in the best interest of the children.
In the recent case of WGOC & GH and Anor  the court amended a parenting order where a mature child who ran away to his mother’s house was forced to miss two years of schooling because his father would not let him attend a new school. Whilst the parenting order had been breached, the court agreed that living with a father who consciously allowed his child to miss school for such a long period of time was not in the best interest of the child.
So, if your mature child has expressed to you that they wish for an arrangement that is contrary to an existing parenting order what can you do?
- You can seek to have the court vary the orders if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was made;
- You can apply for consent orders if you and the children’s other parent agrees to its terms; or
- You can enter into a parenting plan – an informal, non-binding agreement between you and the other parent.
Although mature children can often be very persuasive, please bear in mind when making arrangements for your children that the main concern of family law is to ensure the best interest of the children by allowing them to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Please be aware that breaching a court order is very serious and may result in severe penalties. If you have any concerns about either parent or a child contravening a parenting order, or if you wish to alter existing arrangements please seek independent legal advice from a Family Law specialist.