Dundas & Blake 2013 FamCAFC 133

A child lived with its parents until they separated when the child was aged 15 months, and then lived in an approximately equal time shared care arrangement until the child was aged 2 years 10 months, while regularly being cared for by third parties.

A family consultant found that the child exhibited prolonged distress at handovers, showed clinginess, distress when commencing child-care, had nightmares, and showed aggressive attention seeking behaviours that were indicative of attachment insecurity.  The consultant recommended a change in care arrangements to live primarily with one parent, and reported that the primary attachment figure was the mother.  The mother had a history of depression and drinking.

The judge ordered that the child live with the mother and spent time with the father, and that the mother have sole parental responsibility.  The judge’s reasons for granting sole parental responsibility was that the mother’s personality showed passive-dependent traits and she was unable to resist pressure from the father even when she believed that the father’s proposals were not in the best interests of the child (personality submissive, parenting style permissive).

The father appealed the order about sole parental responsibility, saying that insufficient evidence had been presented to rebut the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.  The appeal court upheld the father’s appeal and ordered equal shared parental responsibility.

The judge had also ordered the mother to continue to see a psychologist on a fortnightly basis for the next two years (therapy for parent).  The father appealed that the order to see a psychologist as stated was unenforceable and requested that the treating psychologist provide him with a quarterly report about compliance.  The appeal court ordered that the psychologist provide the father with reports as requested.