Winters & Winters 2014 FamCA 216

The case involved two children, one aged 4 years who lived with the father, and the second aged 18 months who lived with the mother and maternal grandmother.  The judge found that the mother’s environment posed a real risk of physical and/or emotional harm to the child arising in part from the grandmother’s partner.  The judge issued an interim order that the mother obtain alternative accommodation and noted that her success in obtaining alternative accommodation would substantially determine the ultimate outcome of the proceedings.

The judge found that the attachment of the older child to the mother was impaired and in need of repair.  The judge found the mother’s personality was somewhat timid and emotionally dependent (personality dependent).

The judge found that the father had interrogated the child upon return from the mother’s care arising from his unreasonable concern over a risk of the child being abused while in the mother’s care.  The judge found that the father would badger the child in an effort to elicit details of any misconduct that may have been perpetrated upon him while in the mother’s care.  The father recorded his conversations with the child and the judge found that the recordings were replete with emotional rewards being given to the child as consequences for making disclosures, the father prompting the child to make disclosures, and the father seeking to repeat in an affirmative way disclosures with a view to firming the child’s story in a way that suited the father (coach, leading questions, personality persistent).  On the recommendation of the family consultant the judge ordered that the child have a period of six months in the care of the mother and that his time with the father be supervised (access supervised).

The judge found there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitating the parties’ communication and capacity to co-parent.  The judge ordered that the parents keep each other informed using a communication book that travels with the child at the commencement and conclusions of any time spent with the child; and that the communication book discuss only matters relating to the care, welfare and development of the children, such as schooling, extracurricular activities, medical issues and any other issues that may arise with respect to the children.

The judge ordered that both children live with the mother for the first 6 months of the order and for the father to have supervised time, and for the mother to have sole parental responsibility for the children.