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How Withholding a Child from Other Parent Can Backfire

withholding child | Justice Family Lawyers

Sometimes, custody matters can get messy and contentious. That’s why we have the family courts in place to seek the outcomes and enforce the orders that best suit the welfare of children and ensure, generally, that both parents are able to have a healthy relationship with their children.

However, the question of  keeping a child away from other parent in Australia often comes up. In this blog, we will cover this topic in detail.

Can you withhold your child from their other parent?

In Australia, you are required to comply with court orders regarding parental matters, and that will generally stipulate that both parties have access to a child.

So, you cannot withhold your child from their other parent.

What to do if your ex is withholding your child?

Keeping a child away from the other parent with no reasonable excuse can backfire, as it constitutes a breach of court orders.

If your ex-partner is holding your child from you, in almost all circumstances you have the right to remedy this to spend time with and enjoy a healthy relationship with your child.

You should speak to a child custody lawyer about the effects of parental alienation on the child and what the different case law on parental alienation says.

If there are court orders in place, you can file a contravention application to the court. Here’s what you’ll need to file one:

  • The order or agreement that has been breached
  • An affidavit
  • A valid s.601 certificate

There is no fee associated with filing a contravention application. However, it is important to note that this application cannot be filed through the commonwealth courts portal and it should be emailed to contraventionlist@fcfcoa.gov.au along with any supporting documents.

Child Custody 1 - keeping a child away can backfire

Once filed, you will need to serve it to your ex, who can in turn, respond to your contravention application with their own application seeking a variation of the order that they are breaching or evidence of why they have breached the order.

It is important to note that in addition to enforcing the court orders, the court may impose heavy fines on your ex, or even impose jail time. If you do not want this to happen, but want to stop your ex from keeping your child away from you, you can file an enforcement application rather than a contravention.

An enforcement application will also require an affidavit filed with it and must be served to the other party via personal service.

If you’re not sure whether you want to file an enforcement of contravention application or need legal council to determine your best course of action in stopping your ex from withholding your child from you, get in touch with our team for a confidential discussion.

When is withholding a child from the other parent the child’s best interests?

In some extreme circumstances, you may keep a child away from the other parent. In these cases, the welfare of the child is compromised and they could be in danger. These extreme cases usually involve:

  • Situations where there is a history of family violence or abuse
  • Substance abuse including drugs and alcohol
  • The other parent has extreme mental health problems that may endanger the welfare of a child

If you find yourself in the above situation and feel for your safety or that of your child, obtain legal advice on the next steps before you breach court orders.

It is also advisable that you try to resolve the problem with the other parent of your child informally.

When withholding a child due to concerns for the child’s welfare

If you are unable to resolve with your ex, it may be best to approach the court and seek to get the court orders changed to reflect your current situation.

The court may order a child impact report or a family report to ascertain what is the best thing to do with the child.

Some parents will seek a sole parenting order for their children and use this to restrict access by the other parent. If the court is convinced that sole custody is in the child’s best interests they can make a ruling effectively granting sole custody to one parent.

Although the term “sole custody” is now called “sole parental responsibility”“.

If the court grants one parent sole parental responsibility this may mean that all areas of the children’s lives are now managed by that parent who does not need to consult the other parent on any aspects of their child’s life. The child will live exclusively with the favored parent in the proceedings.

The order would not likely prevent the other parent any access unless it has been proven that that parent poses a threat to the children of the family generally.

Remember that the Family Law Act focuses on the child’s welfare and not the parents and this is where you can quite easily lose custody of your child.

When withholding a child for personal gain

When one get divorced in Australia, know that parents can very easily lodge Family Violence Orders against a parent trying to see a child. In fact, the good old Family Violence Order or restraining order is the lowest hanging fruit for the parent determined to erase the other parent from a child’s life. These orders alone have seen normal middle-class people, educated professionals go to jail for trying to see their kids.

The Family Violence Order is the easiest way for a parent to erase you from your child’s life. And it is highly effective. It often occurs hand in hand with parental alienation where the children are brainwashed to reject one parent or to refuse to spend any time with that parent. The alienating parent then gets full custody and the children are repeatedly telling the court that they don’t want anything do to with the targeted parent.

If you wish to recover any access to your child you then need to return to court to either get any Family Violence Orders overturned or see what avenues you have to challenge sole parental responsibility rulings. While doing this you need to appear calm and secure even though you are likely quite traumatized by the loss of your child. You can never appear emotionally dysregulated, even though you most likely are, because the court will interpret this to mean that you could be unstable or even a potentially harmful influence in your child’s life, even though you are not.

If your family law situation has arrived at this point, you need to brief the most skilled family lawyer that you can find and ones who are familiar with the notion of parental alienation.

8 thoughts on “How Withholding a Child from Other Parent Can Backfire”

  1. It’s my father who has stolen my 9 year old daughter, my husband died after many years of caring for him . My daughters daddy. My father has falsified documents, affidavits, lied to mental health services and got me locked up involuntary which wad a horrific nightmare, I was electrocuted, druged heavily, never saw a doctor nor was there any investigation into the heresy of my abusive father.

    I’m not safe, my health is compromised severely due to the separation from my child 💔 all I have to live for..
    It’s inhumane the phycolgical torture, trauma pain and suffering, financial loss of hom
    e. My life taken.

    Michelle Turner

    Please 🙏 help me
    0411 588 576

    1. Hi Michelle I am sorry to hear about what has happened to you. When did the withholding of the child start? Is the matter currently in court? Feel free to get in contact with our family lawyers 1300171263 to assist with your case.

  2. Can you please help our family?

    I recently had a c-section at 25 weeks and my daughter is currently at NICU, Her father has been arrested (2months prior birth)for being accused of assaulting minors with a heavy criminal record.

    DCJ is giving me a choice to whether be with my daughter or my partner because they believe I don’t understand his charges.
    They will be implying an AVO once I choose my daughter which means he has no legal right to be a parent for until she is 18

    Or she goes straight to foster care ,when we have a legal guardian without a criminal history who’s willing to care for her under their approval.
    I have until she gets discharged from the hospital when they finalise the decision. (SEPTEMBER)

  3. There is a pending dvo on my son but the lawyer said that he will probably only be charged with common assault as she has no evidence for more serious charges . The parents do not talk at all and I have all communication with the mum who is argumentative and difficult to deal with . Changing times and days of the dhhs undertaking regularly. I lead a busy life and so I message lots to make sure she has it sorted as she often doesn’t have a car and there is 3 hr between the parties . Dad has child in day care and a paediatrician. Mum has seen a paediatrician once and has had a hearing test done and now refuses to return the child to dad . What will happen

    1. If there is an active or pending DVO, it’s crucial for your son to comply with any temporary conditions set by the court. The result of the criminal charges he faces will depend on the evidence provided and the specifics of the alleged crime.

      In Australian family law, the child’s best interests are paramount. Any decisions about parenting disagreements will prioritise the child’s welfare and development.

      It is highly recommended for your son to consult with a knowledgeable family lawyer. Given the ongoing criminal proceedings, he needs to understand his rights and potential avenues to see his child, ensuring both his rights as a father and the DVO’s legal obligations are simultaneously upheld.

  4. My ex has dienied my children to come back home since 2015 as I’m the primary parental carer and there mother he told them I had past away of an drug over dose which lead to my 13 yr to run away from her fathers home cause she didn’t believe him to look for myself by 14 turning 15 my daughter finally found me at an apartment I was staying at at the time and he had threatened our daughter that she had until the next morning or hell will break loose cause she ran away to find me they are not allowed to contact me dhs knows he isn’t the primary career of our children and they never tried to contact myself not once even when my ex was under investigation and I still don’t know what for and now my daughter is in residential care housing now and also my children have been hurt by the stuff my ex and his wife have filled the girls minds with so they have been dealing with mental abuse by them as they are lying and filling there heads with lies how do I get this addressed as there is so much ore to this case 8 years worth or torment

    1. It is recommended that you engage with a family lawyer to receive guidance on your rights, potential options, and the best way forward given your situation.

      If your children are at risk or have been abused (physically or mentally), you should report the abuse to the police. Additionally, you might want to inform Child Protection Services of your concerns.

      Ensure that you document all incidents and relevant details. This includes any threats made by your ex-partner or evidence of abuse or neglect.

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