Haddock & ANOR and Haddock & ANOR 2013 FCCA 936

The paternal grandparents of a child aged 5 years withheld the child from the mother after a visit, alleging that the mother engaged in alcohol abuse.  The grandparents were further concerned as the maternal grandmother lived with the mother, and they considered that the maternal grandmother was also an alcoholic.

The mother reported that her in-laws and husband were controlling towards her, and they justified this by their allegations of her alcoholism.

The judge noted that the paternal grandparents cited anecdotes to support their view that the mother was alcoholic, such as the mother appearing hung-over as she was lethargic, quiet and dishevelled when they visited.  The judge noted that no objective evidence had been provided by professionals of the mother’s alleged alcoholism.  The judge noted that the grandparents withheld the child based on their suspicion, and presented the mother with a fait accompli, so acted unilaterally. The judge noted that no evidence was presented that the child was neglected when in the care of the mother.

The judge noted that a recovery order for the Australian Federal Police to collect a child and return the child to people named in an order is issued only in extreme circumstances as this involvement by the police has a potential to be emotionally traumatising for a child.

The judge issued an interim order that the child live with the mother and that the mother not consume alcohol while caring for the child, and that the child spend time with the paternal grandparents.