Types of families
In deciding what arrangements are in a child's best interests, the Family Court must think about things that are unique to the children and their family, such as their lifestyle, family structure, background and culture. There can also be important issues to think about when a parent is in prison.
- how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is included when considering the best interests of children
- how the court approaches children from blended and step families
- how the Family Court treats the children of same sex couples, and
- what things to consider if a parent is in prison.
What about the best interests of children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture?
The Family Court takes take your children's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into account when working out what is in their best interests.
The court looks at many factors when making parenting orders about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including:
- the lifestyle, culture and traditions of the children and their parents
- any kinship relationships that may impact on the child
- the parenting practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, and
- the child having the support and encouragement they need to explore and appreciate their culture.
The court also considers the children's right to maintain and enjoy their culture, traditions and lifestyle, including with other people of their culture. When making a parenting order, the court needs to look at the impact the order will have on how your children can enjoy their culture. This can include spending regular time with family, including extended family, and taking part in cultural activities.
The Family Court can hear evidence from people who understand you and your children's culture and traditions. This can include evidence from you, your family, elders and experts. This evidence or information can help the court to make a decision about what arrangements are in children's best interests.
What if the court is making parenting orders for children in blended, step or extended families?
Families come in many forms.
A step family is one where a couple do not have children together, but one or both parents have children from previous relationships that are treated as part of the family. A blended family is where parents have new children together, as well as one or both of the parents having children or step-children from previous relationships as part of the family group. An extended family has relatives (such as grandparents, aunts or uncles) who live in the same house with the parents and their children.
There can be practical challenges with making arrangements for children where there are a number of different relationships involved. But the Family Court will always make orders it thinks are in the best interests of children. The court will try to balance out the need for children to be safe, the need to spend time with each parent (including step-parents) and the need to develop and maintain relationships with other siblings, relatives and adults who are important in the children's lives.
How does the Family Court deal with children from same-sex relationships?
The Family Court of WA treats people in same-sex relationships the same as other married or de facto couples when it comes to parenting arrangements.
When deciding what parenting orders to make, the court must look at what is in the best interests of the children. The fact that a parent is or has been in a same-sex relationship is not itself a relevant factor for the court to take into account when determining what arrangements are in the children's best interests.
What if a parent is in prison?
There is nothing that automatically says it is not in children's best interests to see or communicate with a parent who is in prison. It will depend on all of the circumstances, including things like:
- how old your children are
- what their relationship was like before the parent went to prison
- whether the children wish to visit or communicate with the parent while they are in prison
- whether the children are protected from harm (physical or psychological)
- whether your children have visited someone in prison before
- why the parent is in prison and how long they are likely to be there, and
- practical issues about where the prison is, how the children will get there, what prison visiting facilities are available, and what it 'feels like' at the prison.
Even if it would not be in the children's best interests to spend time with a parent in prison, it might be all right for the children to communicate with their parent by telephone, and to send and receive letters and gifts. Everyone's circumstances are different.
Important: Any Family Violence Restraining Order in force against someone in prison still applies while that person is in prison. They cannot communicate with a person protected by the FVRO unless the order says they can.