David Gawthorne is a Solicitor at Mullane & Lindsay in Newcastle and specialises in Family, Relationship and Matrimonial Law
In the usual parenting case, Family Law Courts must consider whether equal time with both parents is in a child’s best interests and reasonably practicable. If not, the Court is then to consider the child living with one parent, but spending substantial and significant time with the other. This includes on weekends, during the week and during school holidays.
With the popularisation of this process, rigid rules of thumb have set in. Equal time orders are seen as highly probable, rather than as one option where appropriate. Substantial and significant time overnight with the non-“living with” parent is then seen as inevitable if equal time is not implemented.
Development up to age 4 is important for the formation of attachments to consistently available carers. Attachment is like a secure base from which a child can forge out and tentatively engage with the wider world. If these attachments are not allowed to develop before a child is made to regularly stay away from home, research in this area suggests that the disruption can lead to negative outcomes for the child’s lifetime that can include mental health issues.
Parents usually reach agreement about parenting arrangements without going near a Court. While this is to be encouraged, it should not be informed by rigid rules of thumb that may risk a child’s healthy development. Parents who agree to overnight stays too soon can end up before the Court trying to undo an arrangement that has failed due to the child’s inability to cope.
David Gawthorne is a Solicitor at Mullane & Lindsay, and practises extensively in Family, Relationship and Matrimonial Law. If you require any assistance in this area please contact David Gawthorne to arrange a consultation or contact our Newcastle office.