Hadley & Schrader and Ors 2014 FamCA 550

The mother began an intimate relationship with her first partner when aged 16 years producing her first child (young parent).  When the relationship ended both parents were teenagers and both returned to live with their own parents.  The mother was unable to cope and took an overdose resulting in her being hospitalised.  The mother later commenced a relationship with her second partner who was another teenager, producing her second child.  After the second relationship ended the mother threatened the second father with a knife and was charged, and the two children were then cared for by their maternal grandmother for two years.  Both fathers then commenced proceedings to obtain care of their children.

The family consultant identified multiple risk factors for the children while in the care of their mother including: physical abuse, neglect, risks of corporal punishment, sexual assault, family violence and exposure to substance abuse and drug related activity.

Orders were issued for the children to live with their respective fathers.  A subsequent family report found that both fathers had exhibited disturbed behaviours.  The mother commenced a third relationship with a partner who also exhibited disturbed behaviours.   The two children were now living apart and a family report identified that both children felt fear and sorrow from living apart from each other (sibling separation).

The judge found that during proceedings the mother had presented as increasingly hostile, petulant at times, indignant, and on many occasions apparently bored, answering questions in tones of insolence and sarcasm.  The judge found the mother to be impulsive when angry and incapable of self-restraint in those moments (personality impulsive).  The mother acknowledged that she used cannabis twice daily, taking levels that hugely exceeded the safe cut-off point.  The mother stated that when she was smoking cannabis the children were playing or watching television, and she did not concede that her parenting capacity was impaired to any extent.  The mother denied allegations about the state of her house, such as cat faeces inside the house and under the bed, wet and soiled nappies lying around, unfinished meals on floors for days and dirty dishes covered with cockroaches, and minimal food in the fridge and pantry (parenting style disengaged).

The family consultant considered that the relationship between the two siblings was especially important because the children did not have other secure attachments.  Both children expressed a wish to live with each other (child’s wishes, sibling separation).

The judge found that while the mother remained in a state of being insightless (lacked insight) about her impulsiveness and drug use, the children were at an unacceptable risk of neglect and abuse, despite the fact that the mother loved her children and wanted to be a good parent to them.  The judge found that the mother was unable to meet the children’s needs, and had an attitude of entitlement (personality self-centred).

The judge ordered that the two children live together with one father and his new partner, that both children spend substantial time with the other father and that  the two fathers shared parental responsibility.  The judge ordered that the children spend supervised time with their mother (access supervised).