Blake & Torino and ANOR 2015 FamCA 512
The case involved three children, one aged 14 and twins aged 12 years. The oldest child had brought a knife to a handover and threatened to kill the father with the knife, saying that the father had a black heart. An investigation by the child protection department found that both the mother and maternal grandmother had coached the children to make false allegations about the father, and considered that the children were at risk of emotional harm from the mother. The children were placed into the care of the father and spent supervised time with the mother. The father asked that the mother have no time with the children.
The judge stated that it is a serious matter to order that a child neither spend time with nor communicate with a parent. Such orders are commonly employed only where a Court is satisfied that a parent poses an unacceptable risk of harm to a child that cannot be ameliorated by supervision of both time and communication between that parent and the child.
An expert who made an earlier assessment reported that when he tried to assess the child the mother had appeared angry, defensive and controlling. The expert considered that the mother appeared to be trying to set an expectation in the interviewer’s mind that the child became dangerous, aggressive and violent if the child heard any mention of his father. The assessor concluded that the mother condoned and subtly encouraged the child’s aggressive behaviour. The mother appeared unable or unwilling to set limits on the child’s behaviour but set up the expectation in the child that it was acceptable for him to act out, to be boisterous and destructive when his father’s name was mentioned (parenting style permissive).
A departmental assessment found that the mother was unable or unwilling to prioritise the children’s emotional needs over her own need to discredit the father in family law proceedings (differentiate own/others emotions). The department concluded that the children had suffered emotional harm from the cumulative effect of the mother’s actions. The mother was assessed as being significantly influenced by her own mother. The mother was described by the department as argumentative and quite paranoid.
It was alleged that the mother had:
- a considerable history of making or orchestrating others to make false complaints to authorities about the father,
- a history of poor parenting culminating in the removal of the children from her care ten years earlier
- for many years used the children as a means of furthering her conflict with the father, and had regularly coached the children to tell lies to authorities about the father alleging that he had abused them,
- disengaged from the children by not contacting them in the previous year.
The judge found evidence to support all four allegations.
The judge found that it cannot be in a child’s best interests to have a parent wander in and out of their lives unpredictably where there is no apparent reason for either ceasing involvement or resuming involvement. The judge found that virtually every effort had been made for the children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, but this had not worked out.
The judge found that the mother posed an unacceptable risk of emotional harm to the children. The judge ordered that the children live with the father and that the children have no contact with the mother, including no supervised time.