Bartel & Schmucker No 3. 2012 FamCA 1094

Parents had 3 children aged between 9 and 13 years.  Both parents had health worker qualifications.  There had been conflict before the court for 6 years with 3 final orders having been issued over time.  Each parent alleged that the other parent posed a serious risk to the children.  The mother alleged that the father was a sexual predator who had engaged in sexual abuse of his children.  The father alleged that the mother persistently tried to alienate the children from him by making statements that the children needed to be protected from him.  One child had not seen the father for two years (reluctant to contact).

The mother’s serious and repeated allegations about the father had commenced after the father formed a new relationship with another woman, rather than contemporaneously (re-partnered).

The judge found there was no prospect of the parents being able to make a joint decision about the children based on consultation.

The judge found that the mother was not focused on the best interests of the children, but instead she said things that advanced her case, and subjected children to repeated assessments about allegations.  The mother was found to have encouraged the children to support allegations, or to have coached the children.

The judge found no evidence to support the allegations by the mother, and found the allegations to be unsubstantiated allegations. The judge considered the allegations to be part of a campaign to stop the shared care arrangement.

The judge found that the children did not need to be protected from their father.

The judge found that the mother demonstrated an inability to support a meaningful relationship between the children and their father, and that the mother held a strong belief that was so rigid that she would not countenance alternative views about what was best for the children apart from her own view.

The judge found that the children were exposed to an unacceptable risk of abuse in the care of their mother by being exposed to unfounded allegations about their father.  The judge found that the children were not exposed to an unacceptable risk of abuse when in the care of their father (assess unacceptable risk).

The judge found that all members of the family were likely to benefit from therapy (therapy for parent, therapy for child).

The judge granted sole parental responsibility to make major decisions to the father who was required to inform the mother about decisions he made. The judge ordered that the children live with the father and have supervised access with the mother in time.