Peast & Peast 2014 FCCA 66
When the parents lived together the mother had been unable to cope with her young daughter while the father worked, resulting in the couple separating and in an order for the child to live with the father and to visit the mother. Initially the mother was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and an obsessional disorder. Three years later the mother reported that there were changed circumstances as she had recovered significantly and she sought both increased time with their daughter then aged 8 years, and equal shared parental responsibility. The father objected saying that there was no evidence of a significant change in circumstances.
The judge noted that before final orders would be reviewed the mother needed to demonstrate new facts or changed circumstances that necessitated a fresh investigation to safeguard the best interests of the child (burden of proof).
The mother submitted evidence that despite her ceasing medication, her earlier five year history of OCD symptoms had substantially improved, and her earlier abuse of alcohol had ceased. A treating doctor reported no intrusive thoughts about contamination, no excessive checking or repetitive behaviours, and only intermittent anxiety that was self-managed without avoidance.
The judge changed orders to increase the mother’s contact time, and granted equal shared parental responsibility, on the condition that the mother continue to attend her psychiatrist for regular observational care, and that the father be informed of any deterioration in mental state (therapy for parent, treatment report).