Phitzner & Hollas 2014 FamCA 344

Four children had lived with their mother since separation and had recently recommenced spending time with their father.  The mother alleged significant and sustained physical and sexual abuse against both herself and the children but the father denied the allegations.  The mother had reported her concerns about sexual abuse to health services more than to police.  The children had been repeatedly interviewed at the mother’s insistence (assessments repeated).

The mother expressed a view that the children need more therapy because of both self-esteem issues and because they demonstrated disturbed behaviours caused by their sexual abuse at the hands of the father.  One counsellor had been involved in helping the mother to prepare an affidavit, and the judge ruled that it is clearly unacceptable for a person in the position of counsellor to become so involved in the mother’s adversarial presentation as to render assistance in the preparation of an affidavit, as that is the role of a solicitor (expert evidence).  The mother had pressed one counsellor to interview the children further regarding a specific allegation of sexual abuse.

The judge found that the mother had engendered significant support and sympathy from workers at various services.  However the judge found that her evidence was inherently unreliable and where it is not corroborated the judge rejected her evidence.  The judge found a high level of paranoia in the mother’s presentation.  The judge found that the mother’s actions in involving so many services had been detrimental to the children.

The judge found that the evidence did not support a finding that the father posed an unacceptable risk to the children, and the family consultant supported the children maintaining a relationship with the father.

Orders were made for the children to live with the mother and to spend time with the father.  The judge ordered that the mother be restrained from facilitating the children’s attendance upon any psychologist, social worker, counsellor (or any agency employing such health professional) or psychiatrist without the prior written consent of the father.