School bullying has become an issue for many parents, particularly, with new technology and accessibility to social media websites. As bullying becomes a concern for parents, often the decision has to be made as to whether the child should continue in their current school or change.
What happens though if separated parents cannot decide whether the child is to leave one school to attend another. This was argued in the recent Federal Circuit Court of Australia decision of Bardot and Benjamin (2013) FCCA 1024. The facts of this case were the parties were married in 1998 and separated in 2006. There were final children’s orders made in 2008 which included, amongst other things, equal shared parental responsibility for the long term decisions of the two children.
It was submitted by the mother that the youngest child was attending school and was a victim of bullying.
The issue in dispute for the Court was whether the child was still experiencing bullying and whether or not such bullying was impacting on her physical and/or psychological welfare. If so, would moving the child to the new school assist her?
The primary consideration is, and always will be, the best interests of the child. The mother argued that the child should attend at the new school as she believed that their “no bullying” policy alleviated the mother’s concerns that the child would be protected. The father claimed that the bullying had been exaggerated and had been resolved at the existing school. The father submitted that it was in the child’s best interests to remain at her current school and continue to work on her vulnerabilities with her school counsellor.
In evidence, it was explained to the Court that the child described the current playground as a war zone involving shifting alliances that added to her feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
Whilst taking into account the principles in the Family Law Act, Her Honour came to the conclusion that the weight of evidence shown was that it was in the child’s best interests to be given the opportunity to change schools due to the bullying.
If you have any issues in relation to your child’s best interests and you cannot make a decision with the other parent, you should contact Everingham Solomons because Helping You is Our Business.
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