Thomas & Watson 2013 FamCAFC 8

A couple had two children aged 13 and 7 years.  An initial order for shared care granted 9 days to the mother and 5 days to the father.  The mother applied for the order to be changed to increase her time and to grant her sole parental responsibility for some topics (decision delegated). The judge agreed with the mother’s application.  The father appealed.

Both parents raised a number of complaints about inadequate parenting provided by the other (competent parent).  The judge found that both parents were able to meet the daily needs of the children.

The father expressed a view that he was superior to the mother in many ways, and that she was worthless (personality self-centred).   The father denied conveying his strong negative views about the mother to his children, but informed the court that he would keep court documents until the children were older so that they would know the truth.

The father submitted that the judge’s rulings would affect the children’s perceptions of right and wrong, as the order disregarded sacrifices made by the father and the father’s devotion to his children (competent parent).

A family consultant reported that both parents exposed their children to psychological harm by exposing them to intense conflict (adult disputes), and both parents expressed strong negative views about the other, with the children being caught  in parental disputes (capacity to protect).

The judge found that both parents showed some limitations in their ability to prioritise a child’s needs ahead of their own needs (child focused).

The judge found that there was a complete lack of trust between the parents.

The judge considered that the father saw the legal process as the only way to resolve differences, and that the parents did not communicate (communication poor).

The judge found that the father’s disrespect for the mother was significantly more profound than her disrespect for him (communicate respect).

No evidence was presented that the father had insight into the impact of his behaviour on the children (impact on child, lacked insight), or that he had a capacity to change (parenting style insightless).

The Full Court ruled that the father’s interpretation that the judge’s orders would affect his children’s sense of right and wrong was not a ground for appeal.

The judge had ruled that the mother have sole parental responsibility as continuing a shared care arrangement was not in the best interests of the children.  The Full Court supported this ruling.

The Full Court noted that the judge was rightly concerned, not about whether the father’s criticisms of the mother were justified, but about the effect of his continued criticisms on the children (impact on child).

The Full Court dismissed the father’s appeals.