Barzetti and Ors & Barzetti 2014 FamCA 233

Paternal grandparents applied for orders to spend time with the parties’ younger children who were twin boys aged 8 years.  Six months after the paternal grandparents had commenced spending regular time with the children, the father applied also to spend time with the twins.  Allegations of child sexual abuse were made against the father.  The mother sought orders that there be no contact between children and the father and paternal grandparents, and that she be granted sole parental responsibility.

The parties had agreed to 8 sessions of family therapy.  A family consultant was appointed who met with the parents but declined to interview the children as the children had already been extensively interviewed by other agencies and professionals.  The parties then appointed a single expert who prepared a report and in the process reintroduced the three children to the father after a complete break in contact for over three years, producing consequences that were highly distressing for both parents and for the three children.

It was arranged for the paternal grandparents to spend time with the twins after they gave a written undertaking that they would not permit the twins to come into either face-to-face or indirect contact with the father during these visits.

An expert opined that the children had absorbed so much stress and anxiety from the mother that they were unable to form their own point of view (capacity to decide), and that deteriorated relationships might have reached a point of no return.

The judge found that the atmosphere in the family was characterised by tension between the parents with drug use on the part of the father and screaming by the mother.

The ICL reported that the children refused to have anything to do with the father (reluctant to contact).

The judge found that the father did not present a risk of sexual abuse to the parties’ eldest child.

The judge sadly reached the conclusion that there was no further action available which was likely to succeed in building a relationship between the boys and the paternal family.  An expert gave persuasive evidence that any such action would be highly likely to be damaging to the children.   The judge opined that any further attempt to force the children to spend time with the paternal grandparents was likely to be counter-productive to a prospect that they might elect to reconnect with the father and his family in mid-adolescence.  The court ordered that no contact be made with respect to the father and the paternal grandparents.