Farmer & Rogers 2010 FamCAFC 253

The case involved an appeal against the procedure followed by a judge.

The couple had a daughter who was aged about one year when the case was heard, who lived with the mother.   The couple had not lived together, and the mother alleged the father had limited involvement with the child during the first year.  The mother proposed to relocate inter-state.  The mother proposed that an access plan continue until the child was aged 12 years.  The mother proposed restricting current access times for the father as the infant was breastfed on a two-hourly demand basis at the time of the hearing.

The couple acknowledged they were unable to negotiate because of personality differences.  The father viewed the mother as single-minded and demanding (personality domineering).  The father acknowledged that he was forthright and stood his ground.

The mother reported that the baby screamed at handover times, distressing the mother (parental distress).  The father reported that the baby settled soon after.

Both parents sought sole parental responsibility.  The ICL favoured shared parental responsibility while noting the poor and ineffective communication between the parents (communication poor).

Evidence was presented from two simultaneous experts.

One expert noted that the mother had two children from an earlier relationship with one daughter aged 7.5 years.  The expert considered that the mother’s parenting style had engendered an overly-dependent mother-daughter relationship that was probably unhealthy for the 7 year old girl as the girl virtually went nowhere without her mother by her side, reflecting separation anxiety (parenting style protective).  The expert considered that the mother was likely to raise the baby in a similar manner.

A second expert reported that neither parent suffered a major mental health disorder including mood disorder or anxiety.  The expert noted that the mother did not oppose the baby having contact with the father but wanted contact to be on her own terms, noting that the mother resented intrusions by others into her life (personality rigid).

The judge found that the mother had videotaped handovers, and the judge stated that it was plainly wrong for a mother to involve a child in gathering evidence (monitor, report on).

The appeal court ruled that the trial judge had not adequately identified issues in dispute that required evidence from the expert witnesses to allow adjudication, and allowed the appeal.