Breakups and divorce are challenging, particularly for the children affected, who may find it difficult to adapt to their new reality. Unfortunately, in these situations (among others) we’re often asked, ‘at what age can a child refuse to see a parent in Australia?’
When these questions arise they can be hard to answer and difficult for parents to consider. Let’s take a closer look at how the law applies to this situation and what your options are should your child refuse to see you or their other parent.
When might a child refuse to see a parent in Australia?
Parenting may be the hardest job in the world, so it’s understandable that at times you and their other parent may fall short of your child’s expectations, particularly in the middle of difficult situations like divorce or separation. This can occur even when you feel sure you’re doing the best thing for your child, because, as you know, children often have different ideas to their parents.
These situations are typically more difficult if parents are separated as one parent may not know exactly why their child is refusing to see them due to communication breakdowns that often happen after separation.
Considering this, if your child refuses to see you or their other parent it’s helpful to know the legal implications of what’s occurring so that you can make informed decisions.
What law applies when a child refuses to see a parent?
When a child under the age of 18 refuses to see a parent in Australia a number of laws apply. Generally a child has no legal right to decide on their parenting arrangements, meaning they must abide by the decisions of the court and/or their parents. Both parents and the court have a responsibility to act in the child’s best interests when making these arrangements.
Furthemore, family law states that every child in Australia has the right to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents, as well as being protected from harm. The need to be protected from harm is always prioritised when these two rights come into conflict – meaning if it’s evident that having a relationship with one parent puts a child at risk of harm the courts may impose limitations on the contact they can have with their child.
Even in these circumstances it’s rare that the court will order that the child have no contact with one of the parents.
Making parenting arrangements via the courts
If your child does not want to see you or the other parent it’s worth having a serious conversation with them to find out why and explore their feelings. In these situations it’s always better to build a positive relationship and reach an agreement with the child, rather than resort to the courts because even if the court makes an order – it can be difficult to enforce when a child wants something different.
If it is necessary to reach an agreement via the family court system the court will make a parenting arrangement based on the best interest of the child, considering:
- The effect that arrangement may have on the child.
- The child’s wishes (tempered by consideration of their age, maturity and the logic behind those wishes – as well as the level of understanding the child has of their situation).
- The ability of each parent to act in their child’s best interest.
- The practical difficulty of any parenting arrangements.
Taking care of your child
Ultimately when a child refuses to see another parent their wishes must be heard. While their concern could be due to minor issues, it could be a sign of more pressing problems that must be taken seriously.
If you find that their wishes are due to unfounded issues you have the right to require your children to see you or the other parent – the court may also impose requirements under family law. With that said, it’s always best to listen, compromise and keep the child’s best interest at heart so that you can reach an agreement that works for everyone.
For more help managing parenting arrangements and navigating the family court system, get in touch with the experts at Testart Family Lawyers. We’ve got decades of experience helping resolve difficult parenting situations both in and out of court and would love to help solve yours.