Olson & Carter 2014 FamCA 29

A mother alleged that the father assaulted her on the day she was discharged from a maternity hospital with twins.  Staff of the Department of Human Services stated they would remove the children if the mother did not prioritise the child’s needs by leaving the father and living with her parents, so she did leave the father.  The father alleged that the maternal family then tried to exclude him from the children’s lives.  Children were twins who were both diagnosed with autism.

Evidence was given of language used by the father to describe the maternal family.  Phrases included: “with the extreme alienation traits of the extended … clan anything is possible”, “intention .. to remove the children from (the mother’s) bizarre and problematic family,” “intention of .. orders is to alienate myself from the children and are evidence (the mother) wants to estrange me from professionals associated with the children ie school teachers, doctors,” ” maternal grandfather is an ex boxer and an all-round thug and an antagonist before and during these proceedings.”

The judge described the father’s evidence in trial as a stream of vitriol that was not very relevant to the parenting issue, but that reflected strong beliefs by the father (denigrate).  The father did not establish that the mother’s will was overborne by her family.   When asked why a number of family violence orders had been issued, the father expressed an opinion that these orders were made by a court without foundation.  The father responded with a counter complaint that the mother had assaulted another member of her own extended family.

The father alleged that the maternal family had orchestrated his estrangement from professionals who assisted the children.  However the father acknowledged in evidence that he had not tried to contact these professionals.

The judge found that the father did not provide evidence to justify a change in orders.

The judge found that legal definitions of family violence focus on repeated, obsessive and domineering behaviour.  The words “coercing” and “controlling” mean there is an intention or indeed action of the party to forcibly constrain the freedom of the other so that the recipient is left fearful.  The judge found that the father’s behaviour had been controlling but also it had made the mother fearful.  The judge found that the father’s aggressive behaviour towards her included pushing her against the wall and hitting her.  While the father claimed that he was excluded from decision-making about the children, the judge found that the father had chosen not to participate and because of his own behaviour he made the mother shrink from co-operation.

The judge found that the relationship between the parents needs to improve before the children could be encouraged to spend time with the father, and that the father’s attitude of treating the mother with complete disdain meant that the children cannot be encouraged to spend time with him.