O & O 2005 FCWA 20

The case involved three girls aged 11 years, 10 years and 6 years whose parents separated and disputed access strongly.  The older girls became very distressed and acted out, including by absconding from school and being defiant towards the mother.   The father encouraged the girls to consider that they had been treated badly by the mother while in her care (parenting style undermining), said that he needed them, and that their grandmother would die of a broken heart if they did not live with him.

A consultant found that the older girls expressed strong views to live with the father (child’s wishes).  Reasons given by the girls were to make their father happy, as all the father could think about was his children (differentiate own/others emotions).

The judge considered that the children had been presented with an all-or-nothing scenario, feeling they could not express their love for their mother without withdrawing love from their father.  The girls knew that their mother’s love was unconditional while their father’s love had to be earned (conditional love) and that their father’s love could be earned by turning against the mother (coached).

The judge gave low weight to the girls’ strongly expressed views.