Reid & Lynch 2010 FamCAFC 184

The case involved an application to review an order by one judge to allow a father to re-open a case due to changed circumstances.  The couple had lived together for 23 days and produced a son.  The mother subsequently became engaged to another man who lived in a distant location, and the mother proposed to relocate.  The father signed a minute of orders.  The father later alleged that he was in a state of deep depression when he signed the orders and he sought to re-open the case and his submission was allowed.  The father had attended counselling for depression.   The father claimed that he had not seen a report by a family consultant when he signed the orders.  The mother appealed against the decision to re-open the case stating that no changed circumstances had been demonstrated.  The mother noted that the father did not submit that he experienced diminished capacity when he signed the papers (capacity to decide).

A family consultant had reported, “The prospects of [son X] having a long term relationship bond with his father decline if he is not able to spend time with the father in the early stage of his development when emotional attachments are being formed and deepened.  Father and son need frequent time together for their relationship to develop.  Furthermore, not developing a relationship with his father will impact, probably negatively, upon X’s developing masculine identity.  If he relocates with his mother to C, and she enters a long marriage with her fiancé Mr S, it is probable that X would come to regard Mr S as his father figure.  This however would not be a complete substitute for a relationship with his father, possibly compromising his self-esteem in the long term.”  This report about attachment was not submitted in evidence.

A father had signed a consent document that permitted his ex-wife to relocate with their child.  The father later submitted that he had not fully understood the full impact of what he had signed, citing two grounds: he had not received a copy of a family report that partially supported his case, and he had been in a self-diagnosed state of deep depression (but the father did not submit that he had suffered from diminished capacity to function as a witness).

The judge found that stability in the lives of children and also in the lives of adults is an essential prerequisite to their well-being.  The judge found that it was not appropriate to allow a prolonged litigitation of issues that had been addressed in the first hearing.

The appeal court found that requesting a review of evidence that has already been presented amounts to an appeal and the father was not applying for an appeal.  The application was dismissed as the applicant did not establish that there was a significant change in circumstances subsequent to the orders or that a material factor had not been disclosed.