Alan Weiss

McDonald's as Drop off Centre for Warring Parents

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Sydney, NSW -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/02/2013 -- A case in the Federal Magistrates Court ordered equal shared parental responsibility over a 10 year old. In the Decision of the Federal Magistrate ordered the parties to utilize a supervised contact center during a changeover. If it happens that a supervised contact center is not available the parties were required to agree on a neutral changeover place and if they don’t come to an agreement they can have the changeover at McDonald’s, whichever is nearest to the party picking up the child.

Over the years, McDonald’s has become a convenient venue for warring parents who have equal shared parental responsibility for their child. The Family Court has deemed the arrangements as “acceptable” in recognition of the rising need to have secure contact centers. Peak time for changeover of children at McDonald’s are holidays, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.

However, concerns are raised by academics, counselors, children’s and women’s advocates that McDonald’s is not an entirely safe place for changeover as bystanders might be caught in a potential violent interaction between the parents. There is also the danger that women and children might be subject to aggression in car parks.

The concern goes back to whether a handover in McDonald’s is in the best interests of children. This is why Angela Lynch, a lawyer in the Women’s Legal Service, said that a risk assessment should be conducted to ensure the safety of women and children during changeover at McDonald’s.

Chief Justice Diana Bryant of the Family Court said that McDonald’s has been favored by parents it being a neutral venue as compared to changeover in either party’s home. McDonald’s is resorted to especially when there is violence or conflict during changeover.

According to the Australian Children’s Contact Service Association, there are four private run contact centers and 13 government approved centers in Queensland. However, parents need to wait for at least 6 months to get an appointment.

The statements of Justice Bryant affirm the need for more contact centers. Justice Bryant said that ideally parties are to utilize supervised contact centers, but these are not always near the parties and could not accommodate their needs. She also said that changeovers can be at the school, but this is not an available option during school holidays or if the children are below school age. On the other hand, changeovers at or outside the police station are warranted in extreme cases but many parents do not find the police station suitable. For all these reasons, parents thus find McDonald’s an acceptable venue for changeover aside from it having security cameras and “warm and inviting” for the children.

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