Carlton & Larry 2014 FCCA 94

The case involved a child aged 7 years who was reluctant to visit her father (reluctant to contact).  A child protection service had assessed the family and found no current concerns about child protection although there was a history of significant family violence with involvement of police on many occasions, and the service had recommended that the case be closed (personality aggressive).

A psychology consultant reported that the father was very keen to spend more time with his child, and the father attributed the child’s reluctance to spend time with him to the mother’s attitude without showing any understanding of how his own actions may have contributed to the child’s attitude, and without showing any understanding of the importance of managing the child’s anxiety (lacked insight).  The consultant found that the father’s personality presented a very set and rigid and righteous view where he saw himself as a victim of circumstances (personality rigid), and the father ultimately appeared unable or unwilling to understand his child’s emotional experiences (parenting style rigid).

The psychology consultant found that the mother presented as being extremely fixed in her views and she was very reluctant to entertain any views that differed from her own, and that the mother appeared to entirely blame the father for everything without acknowledging how much her own opinions and actions had impacted on the child (attributions externalising, parenting style insightless).

The consultant reported that the mother did not see that the way she dealt with the child’s concerns encouraged the child’s anxieties and that the mother was colluding with and maintaining the child’s anxieties by communicating that the father’s behaviour was faulty, and by showing empathy with the child’s wishes to not visit the father (parental attitude).

The judge found that the father had selectively cited elements of the consultant’s report that supported his position while rejecting comments in the report that did not support his position.  The judge noted that both parties had adopted an adversarial approach where qualities of the other party were belittled to advance the position of each party, an approach that was not in accord with child focused proceedings (parental conflict).