Gingham & Gingham 2013 FamCAFC 30
The case involved a mother who appealed after her son decided not to spend time with the mother (reluctant to contact). The mother had cared for the boy for his first 10 years, and an expert reported that the mother was the boy’s primary attachment figure. The mother had anticipated that a judge might grant access rights to the father, and she then stated that it would be better for the boy to spend all 365 days of the year with the father and she handed her son over in court to the father. After a year the mother applied to re-open the case (review).
Evidence was given that the mother had a distinctive personality structure where she dissociated (conscious awareness was removed from emotionally distressing thoughts), and she showed dependency and was rigidly obsessive in a way that left her powerless to change her determined course of action despite obvious negative consequences (personality rigid). An expert commented that the mother’s unilateral cessation of contact showed a severe lack of empathy regarding parental attachment, and reflected an inability to prioritise a child’s needs over the parent’s needs.
When aged 14 years the son did not want to continue contact with his mother. The mother argued that this reflected alienation due to negative comments by the father rather than being due to her own actions (attributions externalising).
The trial judge ruled that the child’s own experiences had significantly influenced the child’s views about his mother, and accepted that the child’s views and child’s wishes be given considerable weight.
The appeal court ordered:
- the father have sole parental responsibility and the boy live with the father
- the child access therapy to discuss issues associated with re-establishing face-to-face contact with his mother (therapy for child)
- that the mother have only restricted communication with the son that was initiated by the son not by the mother (communication structured).