Parental responsibility – navigating cultural differences
Cultural differences between parents can create difficulties when it comes to making important, long-term decisions for a child. The Court recently considered the effect that cultural differences had on what time each parent spent with the child and who should have parental responsibility for the child.
The child was nearly 4 at the time of the trial. The mother was Hindu Punjabi. She stated that in her culture, little girls did not spend overnight time away from their mother. The father disagreed. There was some written evidence before the Court that the mother’s view was correct.
The father was seeking overnight time with his daughter, which was supported by the family report. The Court ordered that the child spend overnight time with the father starting from when the child turned 4. The time was to increase to 4 nights per fortnight from when the child commenced school.
The Judge stated that, although the cultural beliefs of each parent are relevant, they cannot override the benefit to the child of having a ‘meaningful relationship’ with the other parent.
The mother was awarded sole ‘parental responsibility’ for decisions regarding the child’s education, religious and cultural upbringing and health. In making this decision, the Judge considered the highly conflictual background of the parents, and the fact that the chances of them being able to communicate and reach agreement on these matters was slim. The Judge found that the making of an order that required them to communicate was not in the child’s ‘best interests’.