Merrett & Bass 2013 FMCAfam 263
The case involved a 14 year old who felt hopeless due to the ongoing conflict over him between the parents that had continued since the parents finally separated four years earlier. The boy lived with the mother. The boy was assessed as having borderline intellectual disability and physical disabilities and was unable to read (child’s condition).
The boy informed school staff that his mother was nice to him when people were around but the mother became angry and would yell at him when they were alone. The mother became angry if the boy said that he liked to spend time with his father. The boy considered that he caused arguments as his parents argued about him. On several occasions the boy expressed a view that it would be better if he were dead. The boy talked about comments by his mother about her jumping off a cliff or slashing her wrists if he did not continue to live with her. The mother was reported to have continued her tirades after being informed of the child’s comments about self-harm, in what was described as a vendetta against the father. Comments included threats to harm the child’s pet dog. The mother was reported as demanding money before she would agree for the child to see the father. The assessor doubted that the mother had a capacity to change.
The child was assessed as having a deeply anxious attachment to his mother and a secure attachment to his father. The Court found that the boy was significantly affected by spending time with his mother as his mother was unrepentant in her quest to defame, degrade and demean the father (denigrate). Although the parents had reached a property settlement, the mother continued to state that the father had robbed her. The boy reported the mother saying that if he lived with the father than he would not see the mother until he was aged 18 years. The boy considered killing himself as a means to end the high conflict between the parents.
The Court determined that the mother had made threats to take matters into her own hands by approaching various authorities about the father’s parenting and that she did not attend Court to present her case. The Court found that the mother had engaged in conduct that was detrimental to the wellbeing of the child and that it was against the best interests of the child to spend time with his mother. The judge found that the mother was dominant and was menacing and threatening (personality domineering). The judge found that the mother was willing to exploit her own child to obtain what funds she could from the father.
The Court ordered that the child live with the father and spend no time with the mother. The mother was authorised to communicate with the child by letter and card (communication restricted). Sole parental responsibility was granted to the father. The mother was restrained from emotional blackmail of the child by pressing her distorted views of the father upon the child.