Stephens and Anor & Taylor and Anor

A child aged 6 years lived with the maternal grandparents.  The mother had disengaged from both her parents and the child.  The father had not seen the child for 6 years and the child did not know who her father was.  The father then applied to spend supervised time with the child.

The father had convictions related to drink and driving.  He had an older child with whom he maintained a relationship.  The mother was hospitalised with threats of self harm when she learned about the father’s proposal to resume a relationship with the child.

The grandparents objected to the father’s proposal.

The judge expressed concern that the court not facilitate a relationship between father and child simply to make up for an absent relationship between mother and child, noting that the father-child relationship had to be evaluated on its own merits.  The judge found that the father did not pose any risk to the child, while noting that the appearance of the father raised tension within the grandparent’s household.  The judge ordered that the father have access to the child that was supervised by the grandparents, with a slow familiarisation phase over six months with access increasing gradually (graduated approach).

The grandparent and mother appealed.  The appeal court noted that the decision was a discretionary decision by a judge.  The appeal court required a review mechanism to be introduced before the father’s access with the child became unsupervised.