Baldwin & Baldwin 2014 FamCA 43

A mother stated that her continuing ability to parent a 5 year old child would be affected if the father spent unsupervised time with the child.  The mother alleged both physical and sexual abuse by the father, and considered that the child would experience emotional abuse due to parental distress if unsupervised access with the father was permitted.

The mother was assessed as showing significant dependency traits and an enmeshed relationship with her own mother who was deceased (personality dependent).  The mother had herself been sexually abused as a child.

The judge found that there were both overstatements by the mother and understatements by the father about child rearing incidents including about the father smacking the child.  The judge accepted that the father had difficulty managing his anger and that he had been sexually demanding of the mother.  The mother left the father and later made allegations of sexual abuse of a child but these allegations were not made to police or when she applied for an AVO.

An assessor reported that the mother was becoming more anxious about the prospect that future contact might not be supervised and that the child would not be protected. The judge respectfully noted that the assessor gave no indication in the report of how marked that increase in stress was, exactly how it impacted upon the mother’s parenting, and whether it was already impacting upon her parenting capacity (expert evidence unsatisfactory).  The judge did not accept that the mother’s parenting capacities would be unacceptably impaired if unsupervised access with the father were to commence.

The judge found that the father had personality and character flaws, some serious, but that this is part of the human condition as few parents are perfect and most are “good enough”.

The judge issued an interim order that the child participate in a graduated approach commencing with supervised access on an organised basis, up to 6 hours per week.