Marcia is a 14 year old only child whose parents Mike and Carol divorced 4 years ago. At the time of the divorce Mike and Carol came to an agreement about the care arrangements for Marcia. This agreement was formalised into legally binding Consent Orders.
Until recently Marcia’s care arrangements have seen her live with each parent in alternate weeks. Three weeks ago Marcia refused to go to Carol’s house, telling Mike that Carol was obsessed with diet and exercise and was too strict with what Marcia could and couldn’t eat. Marcia also tells Mike that Carol doesn’t pay any attention to her and argues with her new boyfriend all the time.
Mike tells Marcia that she should go to her mother’s house as per the terms of the Consent Orders, but Marcia refuses and locks herself in her room. Mike telephones Carol and explains the situation. Carol gets frustrated and tells Mike that he is in breach of the Consent Orders and she will institute court proceedings against him. She accuses Mike of not honouring the terms of the Consent Orders.
Mike feels torn. While he understands Carol’s frustration, he is also concerned about Marcia’s wellbeing.
As children reach their adolescent years, they may be less enthusiastic about care arrangements that they have been subject to since their younger years. The likely result is that the teenager may rebel against the terms of the Orders and refuse to go and live with one of the parents, putting the parents in a difficult situation.
The following points are relevant to children’s cases involving teenagers:
- The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) bases it decisions on the child’s “best interests”;
- In determining the child’s “best interests” the court will often consider the child’s point of view as a part of their deliberations;
- The court will also factor in the child’s age, maturity, sex and background;
- The older the child is the more likely the court will base its decision on the child’s point of view (children aged 14 and older generally have their wishes)
If Carol took this matter to court as she has threatened to Mike, it is clear that Marcia’s wishes and point of view would likely be weighted significantly in the court’s decision making process due to her age and maturity. It is also a possibility that exposing Marcia to the court process may only alienate Marcia from Carol further.
"... the teenager may rebel against the terms of the Orders and refuse to go and live with one of the parents, putting the parents in a difficult situation."
Carol needs to be prepared that Marcia’s wishes will be considered more so than when Marcia was younger and the care arrangements were first put into place. Given Marcia’s current issues with her mother, this may not bode well for Carol.
If you have a teenager that is resisting Consent Orders or court ordered care arrangements, it is advised that you contact a lawyer experienced in family law immediately to discuss your options.
- You may find our article “Can I change my Family Court Orders regarding the care and living arrangements of my children?” helpful.