Wondering if a father can receive custody of a newborn? What if you broke up during your pregnancy? Is it even practical?
Let’s look at 34-year-old Gold Coast woman, Jana; she discovered she was pregnant with her casual boyfriend, Dave. He urged her to terminate the pregnancy, but her disagreement led to the breakdown of their relationship. Shocked, Jana later found that Dave filed for 50/50 shared custody of their child.
So, what does Australian family law have to say?
Is 50/50 custody appropriate for young children?<H2>
It is quite difficult to have equal shared custody for young children, especially newborns. The primary carer, often the mother, needs to spend majority of time with a baby for their development. The appropriate child custody schedule will depend on the age and needs of your children – a 50/50 split will not always work.
This doesn’t mean that the non-primary carer can’t spent time with their newborn. Often, shared custody arrangements start with a few supervised hours with the non-primary carer. Young children need a stable routine. There may be long-term negative effects in the development of a child if they lack security in healthy parental relationships. Learn more about early childhood custody arrangements here.
What are father’s rights in family law?</H2>
Under the Family Law Act, the Court must always consider shared custody if there is no risk of harm. Risk of both physical and psychological harm as well as potential for neglect is considered. Gender of the parent is not a relevant factor, meaning that assumed parenting roles are ignored.
The Court’s decisions are not necessarily about the rights of the parents but the rights of a child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. However, considering risk of harm will always come first.
“Custody issues are by far the most emotional elements of a divorce. While both parents fight for as much access to their children as they can get, the court, rightly, makes decisions based on the needs of the child. This can be harrowing for some parents and it can be almost impossible to see a court’s decision as just when you’re struggling with such intense emotions. Finding clarity, and acting in the best interest of the child can be near to impossible for some divorcing parents.” Said Marg Doherty, Divorce Coach.
Can a father get custody of a newborn?<H2>
Whether a father can get custody will always depend on the circumstances. After considering risk of harm, single or joint custody decisions will rely on what is in the best interests of the child. So, what will the Court consider?
* the communication between parents
* practical issues such as distance and availability
* the age and needs of a child
So, in cases like Jana, it is unlikely a shared custody decision will be made. For newborns, especially when the primary carer opts to breastfeed, it is highly impractical to share custody. An estranged relationship between the parents also suggests problems in communication. Dave’s wishes to terminate the pregnancy can also suggest concerns of neglect.
All in all, the Court will decide every case on its own, depending on the circumstances. The best advice is to get expert legal advice from a family lawyer you trust.