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Warring parents told to put children first PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Shelley Hadfield   
FEUDING mums and dads turning to the law over petty parenting disputes have been told to lift their game.

The Herald Sun has uncovered bizarre cases arising in custody battles in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court.

They include a mum who was ordered to make her kids call their father "Dad", and a dad banned from taking his kids shooting.

Lawyers, Minister for Children Wendy Lovell and Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary said kids should come first.

"What's really sad is you have to have a stranger dictate to parents how to be parents," said Law Institute president Caroline Counsel.

"I think it's incredibly sad that they need the construct of orders."

Ms Lovell said children's welfare should be paramount. "While we cannot comment on the specifics of cases at hand, as a matter of principle parents should always put the interests of children first," she said.

Other cases in recent months include:

A MUM ordered not to distract or interrupt her nine-year-old son while he was on the phone to his dad, and to give him some privacy.

A FATHER ordered to put sunscreen on his children when they were outside.

A GRANDMOTHER banned from posting photos of her four-year-old grandchild on Facebook.

The Herald Sun also reported cases this year where:

PARENTS were ordered not to allow their children to watch R-rated movies.

PARENTS were ordered to ensure their children, aged five and almost four, were toilet-trained.

A COURT chose a name for a two-year-old girl because her parents couldn't agree.

A DAD was ordered not to teach his three-year-old daughter martial arts moves.

The Family Court said parents drove the issues, and sometimes the court had to make orders relating to specific parenting issues raised in proceedings.

"This is especially so if the court considers that the behaviour of one of the parents is undermining the relationship with the other parent, and the court is not satisfied that the parent won't cease that particular behaviour voluntarily," the court said.

"Orders that may seem unusual have to be seen in the context of the facts of each case.

"However, as a result of changing social issues, technology and communications, there are orders made from time to time that may seem to be novel."

There are many examples this year of parents being ordered not to smoke, drink, take drugs, or denigrate their ex-partner around their children, and not to physically discipline their youngsters.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Government believed it was in children's best interests for parents to work out arrangements for their care, and more than 85 per cent of separated families did so.

Mr Geary said petty cases were a waste of court time and not a "child-friendly" way of resolving a problem.

"It's hitting an ant with a sledgehammer," he said.

"Try to stay child-focused; try to be focused on the best interests of the child, and think above any sort of adult disaffection."

Mr Geary said he didn't think courts had the skills to make parenting decisions, but were forced into it.

Ms Counsel said parental conflict often affected the child more than what was being fought over.

"All the research shows that children simply want the fight to stop," she said.

She urged parents to consider collaborative law, where lawyers, therapists and families worked to resolve a dispute outside court.


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