In Australia, a child can express their views regarding custody or visitation arrangements, and the court may consider these views. However, whether a child’s refusal to see a parent will be legally upheld in Australia depends on several factors.
Age a Child Can Refuse to See a Parent
A child under 18 has no automatic legal right to refuse to see a parent after divorce. Parents will decide privately about parenting arrangements by agreeing on what is best for their children or by the courts after evaluating the family dynamic.
However, a child can express their preferences in Australian courts. Generally, a child’s perspective begins to carry more weight in these decisions at around the age of 12.
Once the child has reached the age of 18, they can make their own decisions about where they live or which parent they want to spend time with.
Court’s Considerations in Child’s Refusal to See a Parent Under 18
Section 60CC of the Family Law Act, 1975 outlines various factors the court will consider when determining parenting arrangements after divorce and separation. A child’s wishes are mentioned explicitly under subsection 60CC(3)(a) of the Family Law Act.
That subsection acknowledges the importance of a child’s preferences, including instances where a child may refuse to see a parent. However, a child’s wishes are not the primary elements the courts will rely upon in parenting matters.
Under section 60CC(3)(a) of the Family Law Act, 1975, the courts focus on two key areas being:
- The potential benefits of a child enjoying a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
- The need to ensure children are protected from both physical and psychological harm.
Even in cases where a child might suddenly refuse to see a parent, the Australian court system does not generally favour setting up a parenting arrangement where one parent is denied access to their child simply on that basis.
Court’s Assessment of Child’s Maturity
While the Act doesn’t set a specific age, it does guide courts to give ‘weight’ to a child’s views depending on their age, maturity, and level of understanding.
This concept was established in the notable case of ‘U v U’ (2002) 211 CLR 238, where the High Court stated that their views should be given more weight as a child grows older.
Each case is unique, and courts will consider various factors such as the child’s emotional development, intellectual capability, and understanding of the situation. It’s up to the judge’s discretion to determine how much weight a child’s views should carry.
For more information about a child’s voice in custody matters, we have created a separate article: “Does the Child Have a Say in Custody?”
Healthy Parenting Arrangements Through the Courts
The best outcomes in family law proceedings always occur when both parents are committed to working together to co-parent their children.
When determining parenting orders, courts will consider several factors:
- The nature of the relationship between the child and each parent
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
- The court will also consider any other facts or circumstances that it thinks are relevant. The ultimate goal is to uphold the best interests of the child.
The courts consider the factors cited above and advice received from family court report writers and Independent Children’s Lawyers.
That way, we will not have to ask if a child can refuse to see a parent – instead, allow the parents to make that determination.
In a simple shared co-parenting arrangement, both parents will work closely together, communicate about each child’s life, and always check with the other parent before making significant decisions.
Reasons a Child Would Refuse to See a Parent
Several factors may contribute to a child’s decision not to see a parent in Australia. The following reasons can provide some insight:
- The Impact of Parental Alienation: A situation may arise where one parent consciously or subconsciously influences the child to become distant or estranged from the other parent, often confusing what age a child can decide not to see a parent in Australia.
- Comfort-Based Preference: Children may develop a preference to stay with one parent due to the nature of the parent’s lifestyle, living conditions, or the strong bond shared.
- Exposure to Abuse or Neglect: In graver situations, a child might refuse to see a parent due to physical or emotional abuse or neglect, further complicating the understanding of what age a child can decide not to see a parent in Australia.
- Effects of Family Conflict: Persistent conflicts and disputes between parents can influence a child’s decision to spend time with either or both parents.
Determining the root cause of a child’s refusal to see a parent is essential as it plays a significant role in how family law matters are navigated in Australia.
When Fatherhood Meets Legal Challenges: A Justice Family Lawyers Case Study
In a sensitive case centred around the question, “What age can a child refuse to see a parent in Australia?” our client, a father, approached us for guidance.
His 15-year-old child was just refusing the court-ordered visits.
Our child custody lawyers provided comprehensive advice to our client, explaining that family therapy may be the best recourse here.
We enabled a more empathetic approach toward resolution by facilitating open communication between him and his child and providing insights into the child’s legal petition.
Are you wondering, “What age can a child refuse to see a parent in Australia?” These family matters are complex and require expert guidance.
Reach out to Justice Family Lawyers today. Our skilled team will help you navigate this intricate issue with your child’s best interests in mind.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.