Consideration of the ‘best interests of the child’ must go beyond the Court System

The Australian family law system is built on the foundation that the Court must take into consideration ‘the best interests of the child’ when making any decisions regarding children. Whilst such considerations are vital when providing Court orders to be adhered to by parents with respect to parenting arrangements, it is equally important for parents to adopt a similar outlook when interacting with and overseeing 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 emphasizes 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 wants what is best for their child and when entangled in the family law system it is imperative that not only the Court, but the parents focus on what is in the best interests of the child. Being able to separate the personal emotion from the practicality of parenting and/or property negotiations can be difficult and finding the right support network is essential. De Saxe O’Neill Family Lawyers are highly experienced practitioners who are here to help and support you through the family law process.

In line with the recommendations of Family Therapist, Susan Stiffelman, one way to assist in preserving the relationship with your former partner during the family law process is through Collaborative Practice whereby you and your former partner, with the assistance of a collaborative lawyer, choose to engage in open, honest and transparent negotiations without going to court. 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.

DOFL Directors Janine De Saxe and Margie O’Neill are both trained Collaborative Lawyers who are skilled and experienced in the collaborative law process. Should you require further information on Collaborative Practice, please click here or contact our office.

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 sociaty of NSW
  • Doyles - Family Law 2020
  • Doyles - Family Law 2022
  • Family Law Section - Law Council of Australia - Member 2021/2022
  • Collaborative Professionals (NSW) inc

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