Hamilton & Logan 2015 FamCA 647

A child aged 9 years was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and both parents agreed that the child required a high degree of structure, predictability and consistency in her daily routines.  The child had previously lived with the mother.  The mother was treated by a psychologist for anxiety and depression.  The mother had while the child was in the mother’s care, sent a series of texts to the father that the father interpreted as meaning that the mother was considering suicide.  The mother was detained to hospital for five days.  The judge found that the mother had turned on gas in her house while the child was in her care.  The father stated that the child had been informed several times by the mother that the child would not see the mother again.

The mother responded that her comments were made to seek attention, and that the aim of her text messages was to “manipulate” the father into adopting a more sympathetic position towards her, and that she planned to relocate rather than to kill herself.  The father subsequently withheld the child from the mother.  The mother declined to see the child under supervised conditions for the next four months.  The judge found that it was open to the father to have concern that the mother was intending self-harm.  An expert concluded that the mother had been unable to prioritise child’s needs above her own needs.  The judge found that the mother demonstrated little insight into the impact of her behaviour on the child and that her conduct reflected her hostility and anger towards the father and the Court.  The judge found that, while the mother loved the child, the mother’s unpredictable and at times volatile behaviour undermined her ability to care for the child.

The father criticised the mother for engaging in games with the child rather than parenting her.  The father often had not responded to the mother’s calls or text messages and instead relied on his new partner to communicate with the mother, and the judge viewed this as undermining the mother’s role in the child’s life. The judge found that the father lacked insight into the importance of the mother’s role in the child’s life.

The mother failed to appear in Court on the final day of hearing and the judge found that the mother had not demonstrated an ongoing ability to provide a stable presence in the child’s life.   The judge found there was a greater likelihood that the father would be able to provide the child with stability.  The judge found that the parties were unable to communicate as both parties were reactive towards the other.

The judge issued final orders that the father have sole parental responsibility, that the child live with the father and that the child spend time with the mother for four nights per fortnight.

The judge ordered the parties to participate in a course of therapeutic counselling to assist them in their co-parenting relationship (therapy for parent).