Meaningful relationship meaning in the family law context

Meaningful relationship meaning in the family law context

In the recent case of Agnew & Wogan and Anor, the court discussed the meaning of “meaningful relationship” between a child and their parent, as referred to in the Family Law Act:

  1. The meaning of the phrase “meaningful relationship” is not defined in the Act. The Full Court in McCall & Clark[3] has approved the interpretation of the phrase by Brown J in Mazorski & Albright[4] and has also agreed with the reasoning of Bennett J in G & C[5].
  2. Brown J in Mazorski & Albright (supra) said at [26], after setting out the definition of “meaningful” and “meaning”:

What these definitions convey is that “meaningful”, when used in the context of “meaningful relationship”, is synonymous with “significant” which, in turn, is generally used as a synonym for “important” or “of consequence”.

  1. The orders sought by the mother would not see the child develop a meaningful relationship with his father.
  2. However, this consideration has not been interpreted as creating a presumption that children do receive a benefit from having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
  3. The Full Court said in McCall & Clark (supra) at [117]:

Bennett J discussed the terminology in G & C [2006] FamCA 994 and said the enquiry was a “prospective” one which requires a court to evaluate the extent to which a meaningful or significant relationship with both parents is going to be of advantage a child (sic).

  1. The Court continued at [122]:

No doubt in the majority of cases there will be a positive benefit to a child of having a significant relationship with both parents, but there will also be some cases where there will be no positive benefit to be derived by a child by a court attempting to craft orders to foster a relationship with one parent if this would not be in the child’s best interests.

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