Seiler & Vogler 2014 FamCA 395

Children aged 11 and 8 years were reluctant to spend time with their mother, and the mother stated her strong belief that this occurred because the father did not support her relationship with the children, whereas the father counter-complained that the children were reacting to what they perceived to be the mother’s inability to support their relationship with the father.  The father proposed both individual therapy and reunification therapy (therapy for family).

The children’s apprehension about spending time with the mother apparently followed an incident at a handover when a physical altercation occurred between the mother and the father’s new partner.

The parents had agreed that the children attend a general practitioner who would assess and/or diagnose whether the children were suffering from “post-traumatic stress syndrome” but who found that the children did not suffer from this condition.  The judge found it was unfortunate that the children had been put through a process of psychological assessment in circumstances where that inquiry was not necessarily indicated and where insufficient consideration had been given as to whether the process would have an adverse effect by reinforcing a negative view of the mother.

The judge found that the children might have become active participants in the proceedings about adult disputes, and that the children were embroiled in the dispute.  The judge gave limited weight to the children’s present views as the manner in which the views were expressed was unreliable and lacked insight.  The judge noted that the children had proven able to report any adverse action or experience in which they found themselves.

The judge did not order reunification therapy, saying that this proposed therapy was ill-considered and lacked any empirical rigour in terms of likelihood of success, and that it might run a risk of further alienating the children from the mother.

The judge ordered that the mother’s time with the children to be supervised by her partner.