Tony Abbott has admitted to smacking his children and that in some cases a smack can be the "best thing" for a child.
This admission came in the context of Parliamentary debate about whether physical chastisement of children should be banned altogether. Tony Abbott saw this as political correctness in the extreme and indicated that small gentle smacks are sometimes necessary.
So how does the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court feel about this?
One of the primary considerations of the Court in dealing with any parenting matter is to protect a child from physical or psychological harm or from being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence. The definition of family violence has been broadened recently, and a definition of this term can be found in section 4AB of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). But does it include smacking?
The part of the definition of Family Violence that may be relevant to smacking is where reference is made to an ‘assault’. The difference between a smack and an assault is something that was being discussed in Parliament at the time when Tony Abbott made the above comments. In Australia, a child can be smacked without it considered an assault if it comes under the definition of ‘lawful chastisement’. To understand what is meant by lawful chastisement please visit the following link or speak to one of our criminal lawyers:
Generally in Family Law hearings, a party will not be criticised too harshly if the smacking of a child is not excessive and is considered lawful chastisement. That being said, if the child's response to this is consistent with one where the child is suffering some psychological harm, continuing to punish the child in such a way is likely to be considered in a negative light.
Despite whether smacking a child is considered lawful or not, if one parent punishes a child in this way and the other parent does not, a Court will usually make an Order, if sought by the parent that does not punish the child in this way, to ‘injunct’ the other parent from smacking a child. An Injunction is an Order to prevent someone from doing something.
If a Court makes an Order that a parent is not to smack a child, and the parent does smack a child, this will not be looked upon favourably where it demonstrates to the court that:
- A parent will not follow Orders put in place by a Court; and
- That parent is unable to act consistently with the parenting and discipline style of the other parent, which may impact negatively upon the child.
If you have any questions about the level of punishment your child is being subjected to, and whether there is anything you can do about it, please contact one of our family lawyers at Armstrong Legal.