Degraves & Searle 2013 FCCA 660

A separated couple attended post-separation courses, and contact by the father was supervised by an agency (supervision by agency).  The mother reported to the family law court that she had received two phone calls from a family counsellor in an agency that provided post-separation services.  The mother interpreted the first call as reporting a threat to her life by the father.  The second call indicated that the centre would discontinue services for the father because of his behaviour.   The mother asked the family court to issue orders prohibiting the father from approaching within a kilometre of the mother’s house and the children’s school, and prohibiting the father from attempting to contact both the mother and children.  The mother asked for an order that the father be arrested if he breached these proposed new orders AVO.

The case was scheduled for hearing.  The mother’s submission included allegations of family violence.  An apprehension of violence order AVO had previously been taken out against the father.

The father denied making the reported remarks, and the father argued that the information was hearsay and was inadmissible as evidence.

The judge noted that no direct evidence was provided to court by the family counselor, who was a mandatory notifier.

The judge acknowledged that the report from the family counselor had increased the mother’s fears and apprehension.

The judge ruled that the evidence was hearsay, and that only limited weight could be given to the evidence as the information was poorly specified and was denied.

The judge noted that the mother had other avenues to improve her protection including taking out a further AVO. The judge noted that the father had not breached the previous AVO.   The judge noted that the father had no authorised access with the children once contact through the agency was discontinued (restrained from contact).  The judge found that no evidence was presented that the requested orders by a family court would improve the safety of the children or the mother.

The judge issued an order prohibiting the father from seeking information about the mother’s address from the children’s school or from other organisations and professionals.