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What Maisie Knew

Separation and Divorce – Viewed through a Child’s eyes

When family separation occurs it is a difficult and emotional time for all involved. As adults it can take some time to mourn the end of a significant relationship and adjust to a new independent life.

Despite your own issues, the most important people to consider during this time are the children of the relationship.  However, all too often the parents are so caught up in their own grief and emotional turmoil that the psychological impact of separation on the children is not seen or is neglected.

What Maisie Knewis a new movie which looks at parental divorce through the eyes of a six year old child.  It is based on a novel written by Henry James in 1897, however, the issues it raises are still relevant in today’s society.

The movie which stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, clearly demonstrates through the eyes of ‘Maisie’ the impact that actions of parents have on their children.  From the blatantly obvious fighting and yelling within hearing distance of Maisie to the conversations that each parent has with her, all have a devastating impact.  The film clearly illustrates that during her parents’ separation and fighting, although much of it confuses her, she comes to understand that she is ‘the problem’ and tries not to make matters worse.

Situations like the one portrayed in this movie are all too common in Australia’s Family Courts. In relation to children, the law provides that parents do not have ‘rights or entitlements’ and it is the ‘best interests of the children’ that are the paramount considerations for the courts in deciding childrens matters. When making decisions the primary consideration that the Courts must weigh up is the right of the child to freely enjoy an independent relationship with both parents against the safety of the child in a parent’s care.

There are also numerous secondary considerations which a court is obliged to consider, including the capacity of each parent to provide for the needs of the child including both emotional and intellectual needs, the attitude to the child and the responsibilities of parenthood demonstrated by each of the child’s parents.

In parenting matters before the Court it is common practice that the parents attend an initial conference with a Court appointed Family Consultant.  A Family Consultant is a qualified child Psychologist/Social Worker who is there to help families discuss and negotiate future parenting arrangements for the children.

If a dispute is not resolved, the judicial officer may order a Family Report to be prepared. If this happens, a further conference with the Family Consultant is arranged and interviews with both the parents and children are undertaken in order for the Family Report to be written.  The report will include information about the parents’ relationships and interactions with the child, and any observations/recommendations about the care, welfare and development of that child.

When going through a marriage breakdown it is important to not forget the little ones, and as it is so famously said by Garry Frost and Frances Swan ‘So take a step back and see the little people, they may be young but they’re the ones that make the big people big, so listen as they whisper, what about me’.

It really is worth taking a look at the trailer for ‘What Maisie Knew’.  Find it at

If you have a question regarding Family Law issues call Kim Lawson on 43247699.

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