The ‘Best Interests of the Child’ Must go Beyond the Court

Australian family law emphasises the importance of considering the best interests of the child in court decisions. It’s crucial not only for court orders on parenting but also for parents to prioritise the child’s welfare in their interactions and management of their child’s relationship with their former partner.

Maggie Dent in her radio program Parental as Anything tackles Co-Parenting with Family Therapist Susan Stiffelman. The link to this episode can be found here. Susan explains that the defining factor in how a child fares after a separation or divorce is whether the parents get along. She emphasises that this includes how respectful, supportive and kind parents are to one another.

Susan recommends the following do’s and don’ts when it comes to co-parenting:

  • Reassure the children that it is not their fault.
  • Remember that the children love you both.
  • When a disagreement arises, put children at the centre and ask, ‘what is best for them’.
  • Be on the same page/comply with the same rules and routines (more or less).
  • Move slowly with any new partners. Reserve parent/discipline for the biological parent.
  • Fight in front of the children.
  • Be mean to each other or say mean things about the other parent.
  • Interrogate the children after they have been with the other parent.
  • Start a conversation with ‘Why’. You will be guaranteed a defensive response.
  • Lecture, scold or shame the other parent.

Every parent aims for their child’s best, especially within the family law system where both the Court and parents must prioritise the child’s welfare. It’s challenging to separate personal emotions from practical negotiations, so having a strong support network is crucial. De Saxe O’Neill Family Lawyers, with vast experience, offer the support needed throughout the family law process.

To support your relationship with your former partner during the family law process, following the guidance of Family Therapist Susan Stiffelman, you might opt for Collaborative Practice. This involves open, honest negotiations with the help of a collaborative lawyer, avoiding court proceedings. In fact, both parties enter into an agreement which contracts out of litigation. This removes the temptation to go to court and strengthens the dedication of the parties to come up with solutions to resolve the matter amicably.

De Saxe O’Neill Family Lawyers Directors Janine De Saxe and Margie O’Neill are both trained Collaborative Lawyers with the skills and experience needed in collaborative law. Should you require further information on Collaborative Practice, please click here or contact our office on 02 9948 3820

This post is an overview only and should not be considered as legal advice.  If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact our office on 02 9948 3820.


  • The Law Society of NSW
  • Doyles Family Law
  • Doyles Parenting Law
  • Collaborative Professionals (NSW) inc
  • PEXA member
  • Just Fund Accredited
  • AACP

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