In today’s society the concept of ‘nuclear family’ is almost foreign; in fact most families are closer to that depicted in the popular sitcom ‘Modern Family’. This has caused the law to adapt to cases outside the traditional family.
In a recent case Justice Dessau stated:
‘This Court deals with a full spectrum of families: parents who have lived together as a unit with children for many years, parents who have met only briefly but through happenstance have parented a child together, heterosexual parents, homosexual parents, parents who have changed gender, parents from a wide range of cultures, and for example, in some medical procedure and other cases, parents who are firmly united in what they seek from the Court. It is always the particular child and his or her particular needs that must be at the centre of a decision.’
This case related two same sex couples who entered into an agreement to create, and contribute to the raising of, a child. There was one biological parent in each couple. The ‘mothers’ had primary custody of the child and the ‘fathers’ spent time with the child.
The ‘mothers’ came to oppose the ‘fathers’ time with the child. This opposition stemmed from a high level of conflict between the parties, who, despite their best intentions prior to the birth, did not envisage the high emotions occasioned by a child.
The court determined it was not feasible for parental responsibility to be spread amongst four parties and recognised the importance that the ‘mothers’ be acknowledged as sole decision makers for the child. To this end the court declared the ‘mothers’ the ‘parents’ in accordance with s60H of the Family Law Act 1975 and that sole parental responsibility remain with them.
The court also concluded that equal time was not feasible and ordered that the child was to reside with the ‘mothers’. The court made orders that the amount of time the child spends with the ‘fathers’ was to gradually increase from one day each fortnight to substantial and significant time including overnight stays, acknowledging that it was in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with the ‘fathers’. The ‘fathers’ were, however, cautioned to ensure their actions did not create further conflict with the ‘mothers’.
This case is evident of the changing face of ‘family’ and demonstrates that whatever the familial arrangements, the primary concern of the court will always be the best interests of the child.
So whatever your type of family we can help. Contact East Coast Family Lawyers to book an initial consultation today!