Best interests of the child

When parents or judges make decisions about parenting, the law says they can only consider the child's best interests. This means they think only about what's best for the child, not what's best for the child’s parents or guardians.

Decisions about the following issues are all made in the best interests of the child:

  • guardianship
  • parental responsibilities
  • parenting time
  • contact with a child

Section 37 of the Family Law Act lists the facts that you or a court must think about when you're deciding what's in a child's best interests. Here are some of those facts:

  • the child's health and emotional well-being (for example, how they’ll be affected by the decision not only right now but also when they're older)
  • what the child thinks or wants, unless it's not appropriate to consider this
  • the love and affection between the child and other important people in their life
  • the child's need for stability, which can depend on their age and stage of development
  • who looked after the child in the past and how well they looked after the child
  • how well the parents or any other person who wants guardianship, parenting time, or contact will be able to look after the child
  • if there was any family violence, its effect on the child's safety, security, and well-being
  • whether arrangements that need the child's guardians to cooperate with each other (work together) are appropriate

An agreement or order is in a child's best interests if it protects the child's physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being. In other words, the law says that the most important thing is to keep the child healthy and safe.

Putting Charlie first

Tess and Justin learn what's most important in our short illustrated story, Putting children first.  

Illustration to introduce story