Yeddich & Meier and Anor 2014 FamCA 125

An assessor described a 13 year old child as having developed an atypical form of anxious-avoidant attachment style, meaning that the child had responded to the lack of adult responsiveness to his needs by becoming self-reliant.  Part of the child’s self-reliance was to construct surreal and frightening fantasies about feared aspects of his life, rather than to challenge the mother about her claims, or to conclude that the mother who was his primary attachment figure was mad.

The assessor described the father as having low levels of interpersonal awareness and interpersonal skills and a dismissing attachment style, which is the adult equivalent of an anxious-avoidant attachment style.  The child looked to the father to meet his basic needs for food and shelter and his developmental needs.  The father meet those needs and was experienced by the child as being reliable and non-dangerous in that regard, but there was a lack of emotional connection between the father and child and the father struggled to meet the child’s emotional needs.  Observations of interactions between the child and father and his new wife showed that the child presented as comfortable and without apparent inhibition or hyper-vigilance.  The child was able to express views that differed from those of his father without reactivity or capitulation, and verbal conflict was managed respectfully.

The assessor considered that the mother had a significant personality dysfunction.  The mother denied her active role in the conflict involving the child in a manner the assessor suspected was mostly unconscious (attributions externalising), and this was interpreted as evidence of a marked lack of capacity to reflect and personality disintegration that could be called borderline personality disorder.  The assessor considered that if the child lived with the mother, the cost for the child would go beyond the loss of the relationship with the father, and that the child would carry into his adult personality development an unconsidered black and white view of his complex life circumstances that mirrored that of his mother (dichotomous thinking).  The assessor was concerned that the mother and child may struggle to set up an appropriate pattern of mother-son authority and discipline (parenting style permissive).

The child informed the assessor that he did not feel he was caught in the middle of a conflict between the parents, responding, “No, I am on Mum’s side.”  The assessor considered that the child’s wishes reflected his idealised alliance with his mother.

The child had a long history of making complaints to Police but being unable to provide context and details.  An assessor reported that the boy was exposed to his mother’s pre-occupation with the father’s dangerousness.  The child valued the emotionally expressive affection the mother showed for him.  The boy perceived the mother as passionate, protective and elaborated.  The child began to push against the father’s authority (temperament oppositional defiant).  The assessor reported that a pull towards the mother had been building for two years and now was coming mostly from the child rather than from the mother.

The judge found that the child was at risk of psychological harm in each of his parent’s homes as each failed to meet some aspects of his emotional needs.

Final orders were made for the child to reside with his father and spent time with his mother. However the child left his father’s home and, instead of going to school, ended up at his mother’s home with no contact between the father and the child for about nine weeks apart from some text messages sent by the father (abscond). The child did not attend school for the balance of the school year (school attendance).

The judge issued an interim order to suspend the mother from spending time with or communicating with the child.