Conflict between the adults in their life will always have a negative impact on children. It is a good idea to agree upfront on what you will do in case of conflict. Do what you can to ensure that conflict does not escalate, and to maintain goodwill and a focus on the child’s best interests.
The escalation of conflict is not good for anyone. Most importantly, a breakdown in relationships between adults in a child’s life always has a negative impact on the child. Every family has issues to deal with from time to time. Ideally, you will be able to talk them through. It can be useful to involve a third party, such as a counsellor or mediator, well before things get too difficult. Issues around family and children can get very emotional very quickly. Try hard to see each others’ points of view, to maintain a sense of mutual goodwill and common purpose, and above all to keep the focus on the child/ren.
Australian family law, like the rest of our legal system, is based on an adversarial model that is particularly poorly suited to the complex and emotional nature of conflict over parenting and children. Going to court is extremely stressful and costly. Do everything you can to stay out of court if you can avoid it, including trying different counsellors or mediators if the first is not helpful.
Australian family law allows anyone with ‘an interest’ in a child’s welfare to apply for a court order creating contact or other arrangements with regard to the child. The court will not change who is recognised as a child’s legal parents in these circumstances, but it will decide on issues like who sees, lives with and makes decision for a child on the individual facts of the case, and what they see as the child’s best interests.
A court might make an order for you (and your partner, if you have one) to have contact, and in some circumstances even some parenting responsibilities, if it considers this to be in the best interests of the child. Many factors will come into play, including your arrangements to date and perhaps your original intentions (for example, as documented in an agreement) or evidence shown by consent orders recognising your role. Previous cases also have an impact, although family law is less bound by legal precedent than other parts of Australian law, and this area of law is still emerging.