Baxland & Vincent 2014 FamCA 330

A child aged 10 years had spent limited time with the father, and the mother alleged the child was at risk of harm in the father’s care as family violence had occurred during their brief relationship.  The parents had litigated for most of the child’s life (intractable conflict).  The child had seen a therapist who was also the mother’s therapist, with no involvement by the father.  The judge expressed a conviction that the mother presented an entirely negative view of the father to her therapist, and that the negative views about the father were reinforced for the child during therapy (therapy for child). The parties proposed that any family therapy be provided by a new therapist.

The judge considered that the child was by nature sensitive and anxious (temperament anxious).

A trial judge found that individually, the parents presented as intelligent, loving, caring parents; but as a collective, they were capable of destroying the very child they loved so much.  The father had declined to exchange greetings with the mother, or to exchange medical information about the child (communication poor).  The judge found that both parents had exposed the child to their adult conflict, had not provided appropriate role modelling, and had involved the child in conflict.  The judge found that the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility was rendered inapplicable by reason of the exposure of the child to adult conflict.  The judge ordered that the mother have sole parental responsibility.

Orders were made requiring the parties to attend therapy with the child, and for any time between the father and the child to occur in accordance with that therapy (conditional access).