McCall & Clark 2009 FamCAFC 92

A mother left a relationship when the son was aged 6 months and moved to a distant location overseas. The judge ordered a shared care arrangement where the boy was to live with his mother and to spend time with the father. The judge allowed the father to have four periods of access per year of two weeks each.  The father appealed saying that the access time was insufficient to maintain a meaningful relationship with his son.  The father had been actively involved in the care of his son from birth and had visited the son after the mother relocated.

While no expert evidence was presented about attachments, the judge found that the son was comfortable with the father, but the son did not have a significant emotional attachment to the father. The judge considered that the child derived his emotional security from the mother.

The Court noted that the availability of support from an extended family is a very important factor when considering residence of a child.

The Appeal Court noted that a meaningful relationship is an important or significant or valuable relationship.  The Appeal Court noted that the word meaningful could be interpreted in two ways: first referring to a present existing relationship, and second referring to a prospective relationship or to a future relationship.  The Appeal Court favoured the prospective interpretation and concluded that orders should maximise the chances of future meaningful relationships being developed.

The appeal was allowed.