Hibberd & Banner 2014 FamCA 320

Both parties wanted to restrict the child’s relationship with the other to occasional supervised visits, either temporarily or permanently.  It was common ground that the mother had refused to allow the child to spend any time with the father for several months. The mother alleged supervision was needed to protect the child from any physical or psychological harm the child might experience from her exposure or subjection to sexual abuse or family violence committed by the father.  The father alleged there was no reasonable basis for the mother’s truculence.

A second family report was ordered because the mother’s allegation of sexual abuse and demand for supervision were made after release of the first family report.  The first report writer was not available to write a second report.

The second family consultant decided not to broach the issue of sexual abuse, did not interview the child and did not conduct any observations of the child in the company of the father.  The decision not to interview the child was motivated by a belief that a criminal investigation against the father was still pending.  The decision not to observe the child in the company of the father was motivated by the existence of and terms of an interim apprehended violence order AVO in favour of the child against the father.

The first family consultant had opined that the mother’s anxiety was most appropriately managed by counselling for the mother rather than by supervision of the father (therapy for parent).

The judge declined to order that the father engage in a course of anger management as sought by the mother as the father had not displayed anger in recent years and it was not clear that a certificate showing completion of a course would reduce the mother’s anxiety.

The judge ruled that a second family report was admissible, but would be of limited probative value.

The judge issued an order to ensure that the special terms and names of endearment “Mum” and “Dad” be reserved for the child’s biological parents.  The judge ordered that the child live with the mother and spend unsupervised time with the father.  Due to the continuing high and intractable conflict between the parties the judge ordered that the mother have sole parental responsibility.